This Story is Gluten-Free by Sarina Dorie

My teenage daughter tried to sneak the magazine into our cart as we perused the store. The magazine was a flimsy thing covered in celebrities that she was crushing on.

“Don’t even try,” I said. “I told you if you wanted junk food, you could buy it yourself. Bring me something healthy for your mind and your body, and I’ll buy it for you.”

“Mom! That is so unfair!” Skye rolled her eyes in typical teenage fashion. She hugged the magazine to her chest and stomped off.

“You have five minutes,” I called after her. The store was closing soon, and she still hadn’t picked out her sustenance of choice. If she didn’t hurry, she would be forced to consume one of the healthy tomes I had selected.

I removed a book from the shelf, scanning the description.

This story is organic, unpasteurized, and non-GMO. Free of lactose and other milk toast conflicts, goose egg character arcs, and nutty plots with loopholes.

It sounded safe, but I was skeptical after the last time I’d bought a hypoallergenic book, only to find myself suffering from hives later. I read the ingredients in the back.

The plot contains:

Comedy, rebirth, person versus self, a ticking clock, fantasy, and a satisfying twist.

The nutrition box listed that it had more than enough period language required for my daily intake. I also appreciated:

Free range characters are well-developed with a rich robust backstory. The setting is peppered throughout in moderate portions that are neither excessive nor stingy.

I placed it in my cart. My daughter still wasn’t back.

I texted her: I’m heading to the checkout lane.

This part of the store was always the hardest hurdle to get past without succumbing to impulse buys. My attention was snared by bright, flashy magazines that promised delicious desserts that supposedly would make me lose weight and satiate the empty longing in my soul. I forced myself to look away, but the hot, shirtless guy on the next cover caught my attention. I didn’t need the empty calories of gossip magazines. What kind of mother would I be if I told my daughter she couldn’t consume a teen magazine, but I indulged my appetite with unhealthy notions of romanticized relationships?

My gaze fell on the Harlequin bodice ripper next. It was thick and juicy, the metallic letters on the cover tantalizingly embossed so that the surface would be raised when one ran their hand across it. This book was pure mind candy, decadent and delightful.

There was a warning label on this one:

May cause shortness of breath and heart palpitations. Do not read and drive.

The front cover promised a happy ending. Bright letters exclaimed: Anecdotal studies have shown the health benefits of indulging in moderation!

As if I was going to be able to stop after a couple pages. I picked it up, my mouth watering.

My daughter came back to me, shoving what looked like a gift card under my nose “Will this suffice?” She still hugged to the magazine.

Guiltily, I returned my potential impulse buy to the rack.

“Are you going to approve of my main course?” she asked.

The “book” she had selected was downloaded onto a gift card. It was a short story just under seven hundred words and would take her less than three minutes to finish. It was hardly enough to sustain her.

On the plus side, the content wasn’t violent or full of unattainable standards that would give her poor self-esteem, and it was low in excessively saccharine language. I could see it working. Best of all, she wasn’t allergic to the writing. It was gluten-free and paper-free because it was electronic. This story wasn’t even going to destroy a tree.

This was the compromise we settled on. She could have this quality literary entrée and her unhealthy teen magazine for dessert. I added the romance novel to my cart.

We all deserved to indulge in a confection now and then, don’t we?

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