Fiction: The Cupboards are Empty Again


Adeline Barker

“The bright yellow and bold blue letters contrasted with the empty cabinet.”

Empty. The cupboards were empty. But how could that be possible? We just went food shopping yesterday; all that was left now was a large container of Domino sugar. The bright yellow and bold blue letters contrasted with the empty cabinet. 

Next I checked the refrigerator. It was cursed with the same emptiness, except this time all that was left was one stick of butter.

“Mother?” My voice echoed through the quiet household. 

She emerged from her room, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. 

“We have no food.”

She checked the cabinets just as I had, eyes bored and lifeless. “I guess I must’ve forgotten to go food shopping.”

Had she gone insane? Did she not remember the painful trip to the grocery store we had endured just the day before? The near $300 we had spent?

“Mom, we just went yesterday!”

“I don’t remember going. Are you feeling okay?”

I was only questioning my own sanity now. “I’m fine. Let’s get some groceries.”


My mother was an admirable person. She was never bothered by any situation. No money for gas? Walk. No money for heat? Blankets. No money for groceries? Get a loan. 

And it never bothered her. She walked through the aisles—knowing damn well we were in debt, and it would be a glorious day if we could ever even afford to be broke—still humming “It’s a Small World” and smiling from ear to ear. 

She took thirteen boxes of cereal. A plethora of canned goods. Once our cart was filled to the maximum, I was convinced that we had nearly bought the whole store. At least this week, I wouldn’t be waking up to an empty cupboard again. Even if that meant being another $300 in debt. 

At checkout, the total came to $326. 


My alarm went off at 6 a.m. and I reached the kitchen at 6:34. My vision was blurry. Still, even after it cleared, the cupboard remained empty. Sugar and flour were the only items on the shelves. Did we not bring the groceries in?


“What is it this time?” 

“There’s no food.”

She dragged her feet to the kitchen. “That can’t be.” 

She ripped open the fridge. Eggs and butter. 

“It appears we have no food.”

We checked the porch for any leftover bags. Nothing.

“Maybe we have thieves?” I suggested. There was no urban life in a four-mile radius—only a small grocery store and gas station—but it wasn’t impossible. Disappearing food, however, was impossible. 

“Let’s go food shopping.”


Once again, I woke up to no food in the cupboards. At this point it was not an abnormal occurrence. And there was only one solution to this problem: go grocery shopping until one day the food will stay. 

Unfortunately, the food never stayed. We came to this realization the fifth time waking up to nothing. So, we stopped relying on grocery stores. We grew our own food. We did it for ourselves.

But in the end, was it ever even about the groceries?