5 min read

Have You Eaten? Part Four

Part 4 out now!
Have You Eaten? Part Four
Cover by Shing Yin KhorCover by Shing Yin Khor

Have You Eaten? part 4 of 4 is live at Reactor! 

Read the end of the story (although really, there's no such thing as the end for this one) as Quan, Morrow, Harper, and Fen find themselves at the Rosemary Patch, meeting the family that made one of them into the person they've become. Featuring a recipe I've made without light, without power, and without running water. I hope you all love this one as much as I do.

If you haven’t heard, Have You Eaten? is my serialized novella about queer dirtbags on the run, searching for their missing best friend. It's the story of how they nurture and nourish each other with their limited emotional and material resources. The entire novella is out now at Reactor. Each installment of Have You Eaten? is accompanied by an original recipe from my recipe box. You'll also find stunning original art from friend of the newsletter and genuine superstar, Shing Yin Khor. 

The thesis of this project, at the start, was "here's how community actually works," and in the process of making this thing happen, I've felt it in my bones: We show up for each other, and frustrate each other, and make things together, and let each other down, and mend each other's hearts. I owe such a debt of gratitude for the team at Reactor for putting this together; to my brilliant friend Shing Yin Khor; to all the friends and colleagues who supported this project as it was secretly in the works, enduring taste-tests and Ship-of-Theseus questions about changing recipes in dire circumstances. Thank you to everyone who listened and cared and showed up, and to everyone who forgave me when I was losing my mind in the process of writing it, and to everyone who made it better by touching it. I am so, so proud of what we made together.

You can read parts 1 through 4 now, or keep scrolling for an excerpt from Part 4 below (be warned: this excerpt contains spoilers for parts 1-3!)

Excerpt: Harper’s Homecoming

Harper walks behind everyone else as they make their way down East Wacker Drive in what used to be the Loop. The four of them are in the center of the street, not trying to hide their approach. Not looking to make anyone nervous, Morrow had said when they entered the city. Not looking to make anyone pissed, Quan had replied. 

Harper hadn’t said anything. They don’t say anything now either. They just hang back, half a block behind everyone else, hood up, raising a hand in acknowledgment whenever Fen glances nervously over her shoulder at them. Fen’s still worried that Harper’s going to disappear, leave the group, strike off on their own. It’s an understandable worry, but Harper wishes Fen would just sit with that worry for half a day instead of constantly bleeding it out onto every surface she touches.

The blacktop is still cracked from the time a tank rolled through the neighborhood. Harper looks down at the zagging splits in the street, remembers the sound of treads. The road here wasn’t made to support that kind of weight, but nobody cared then and nobody’s left here to care now. Harper didn’t even care, not at the time, even though they loved these roads. It was hard to care about anything but the ten minutes that had just happened and the ten minutes that were on the way. Still, that tank should have fallen through the asphalt, through Lower Wacker, down onto the now-submerged Riverwalk. Should have cracked the pavement straight through.

The other three are loud up ahead. Loud on purpose—that’s what they all agreed on. No sneaking, no surprises. Treat the Rosemary Patch like a bear den, that’s the smart approach so it’s what they’re doing. Quan and Fen are bickering, an are-we-there-yet back-and-forth that has a smile in it on both sides. Morrow’s got their hands deep in their pockets, just listening, but their bigness is loud and for once they’re not trying to hide it. 

The buildings that line one side of the street get a little taller. They’re almost to Stetson Avenue now. Harper looks up into the empty eye sockets where rows of glass windows used to be. The piercing whistles of lookouts echo up the block, twee-twee-twee-twee. Fen’s chin snaps up at the sound. 

Harper sighs and runs a palm across the patchwork stubble on their scalp. “Here we go.” 

The group’s strategy of being obvious pays dividends. As they approach the remains of Columbus Plaza, four figures melt out of the shadowy mouth of one of the buildings. Nobody Harper recognizes—they’re kids, practically, all wearing red rags around their biceps, all making faces like they know how to kick ass. They’re skinny but in a growing-too-fast way, not in a starving way, and they all have all their hair. Harper figures there’s probably a good number of adults standing just out of sight, letting these cubs get some experience. It’s a promising sign. 

“Stop there,” one of the kids yells, a scrawny Black kid with a tight fade and a missing front tooth. The kid’s got a scowl that would stop a tank in its tracks. 

“No problem,” Fen calls. She holds her hands out at her sides. Quan and Morrow do the same. Harper’s instructions echo through everyone’s mind: Everyone stay relaxed. Don’t look tense. If you’re calm, they’re calm.

One of the other kids—tall, weedy, blonde hair that’s falling into her eyes—has a big stick that she bonks against the blacktop. It’s genuinely a little menacing. “What are you doing here?”

“We’re looking for the Rosemary Patch,” Morrow says. They’re doing the worst job of looking calm. They’re thinking about what’ll happen if these kids decide they want a fight. Dreading the possibility of combat with children. The tension radiates off them in sick shivers.

The Black kid looks behind him, back into the building he came out of. The blonde shoves him and hisses something that sounds like “Don’t look, dipshit.” 

“It ain’t here.” This from the smallest of the kids, who wears a ballcap that’s too big for his head. “You’re in the wrong place. Turn around.”

Fen takes a slow step forward, her hands still out at her sides. “I think it is here, actually. We’re here to see, um.” She hesitates long enough that Harper takes half a step forward, but then she sticks the landing. “We’re here to see The Abbott.” 

The kids lose their composure immediately. They’re grabbing each other and talking over each other, gesturing at the same building the one kid had looked into. After a few seconds of this, an adult figure strides out of the shadows with the loping impatience of a chaperone who needs to impose order. 

Harper’s eyes track the well-muscled neck, the broad bony shoulders, the long swinging arms. They tug their hood down over their eyes just a little further. 

If you’re a paying subscriber, come by the Stone Soup Supper Club and let me know what you think of today’s installment! (If you’re not, now’s a good time to sign up.) 

No matter what, please do share Have You Eaten? far and wide. This novella is so personal to me, and is such a swing for the fences – it’d mean the world to me if you’d tell your friends about it.