As a ten-year-old, Dean Thomas was certainly in the minority as a hater of peanut butter sandwiches. Most kids at school brought a PB&J in a brown paper sack everyday, but never Dean. Give him turkey, give him ham – just keep his bread far away from the sticky spread.
Dean’s stepfather had asked him about it once, after being turned down on an offer to make him a PB&J. “You know, Dean,” he said with a smile, “peanut butter is the pâté of childhood - I can't believe you don't like it. You really should give it another try.”
“No, thanks,” Dean muttered, his dejected tone out of place. “I’ll just have a cheese sandwich.”
His stepfather had given him a curious look, but let the subject drop, noticing that for whatever the reason, it was not something to press. He never brought it up again, and neither did Dean. Of course, there was a reason that peanut butter made Dean sick to his stomach, but it was one he never shared with anyone, not even his mother. It was a memory, one from when he was very small, and one he was amazed that he could remember with perfect clarity.
“Dean,” Edward Thomas said exasperatedly, “will you please eat your sandwich? You need to have something for lunch.”
“No,” the three-year-old child replied, lower lip precariously close to trembling. “I don’t like peanut butter.”
“Dean,” Mr. Thomas tried again, his tone persuasive, “peanut butter tastes really good, like candy.” He picked the sandwich off his son’s plate and took a small bite. “It’s my favorite type of sandwich. Here, Dean, try a bite.”
Not wanting to miss out on anything his father loved, Dean hesitantly took the sandwich and bit off the tiniest of bites. After a few moments, a smile was spread across his face, and the sandwich was almost completely gone. Peanut butter stuck to the roof of his mouth, Dean mumbled, “You’re right, Daddy, like candy. It’s my favorite too, like you.” He paused a moment before adding, “Can we have peanut butter again tomorrow? Please?”
Mr. Thomas smiled. “Of course, Dean. And any other day you want.”
The next morning, a Sunday, Dean had awoken to find his father nowhere in sight. Walking into his parents' bedroom, he saw his mother sitting on the bed and the bureau drawers pulled opened haphazardly. Dean had crawled onto the bed and asked why his father wasn't here. His mother explained, tear tracks evident on her cheeks, that Daddy wasn't going to come back and she was sorry, sorry, so sorry.
Peanut butter had never tasted the same after that.