September 13, 2009


Another narrative piece for English.

I take his plate from in front of him and shift my hand to keep the gruesome, putrid, picked-apart chicken carcass from contaminating my skin. My grandfather, Papa, has miraculously managed to strip every shred of flesh from the bones. I’m amazed that he’s managed to fit the bites in between the endless stream of praise for Kosta, the oldest, wisest, celebrated grandson.

I carry the defiled chicken remains to the trash and turn the plate sideways, trying to slide them off. A bit of splintery bone catches on the edge and sticks. I push

it off with the tiniest tip of my finger before thrusting my hand under hot water to remove any traces of grease. I slip past my grandmother as I returned to the table. She, despite her broken wrist, is transferring asparagus into a container to put in the fridge. Papa is still at the table. He’s picked a scab on his wrist and is catching the blood on his grimy napkin, but has finally moved on to praising my younger cousins.

“We’re going to be seeing Kat in a few weeks. She’s gotten very thin, very pretty. You know, when she was born, she was so fat. I was worried that she was going to be one of those awful overweight girls.”

I pick up the last of the dishes and walked to the sink to get a sponge. Papa stands. “Well, Anne, girls, I’m tired. I wanted to get to bed early. I’ll see you next week.” He opens his arms for a hug.

I don’t want to hug him. I don’t want to have to wait until he leaves to wipe his slimy kiss off my cheek. I don’t want to pretend that I want to see him next week.

I want to tell him what I think. “Kosta is not praiseworthy. When Kosta, artistically stunted as he is, assistant taught an art class at his college, he gave bad grades to the geeky-looking guys he didn’t like and the girl who didn’t shave her armpits. Kosta may be good a baseball and have a pretty girlfriend, but he’s an ass.” I walk towards the sink, towards Papa, as I speak. “Listening to you praise him makes me almost as sick as the chicken you make us eat every time you visit.” I pause, take a breath, and rest my hand on the counter next to the stack of greasy plates. “Kat has a black belt in tae kwon do, is in the gifted and talented program at her school, and is outgoing, fun, and wonderful. Praise her on that, not on her weight. After all, I certainly hope that you’d love her even if she weighed a hundred pounds more.” I clutch a platter of left over lumps of meat, trying to support myself as the rage spews forth. “Praise your granddaughters on something other than their appearance! Stop being sexist! Your wife has devoted her life to cleaning up after you, ironing your clothes, cooking your meals. The least you could do are the goddamned dishes!” I hurl the plate at him. It shatters. In my mind, I finish my diatribe and run out of the room.

In actuality, I say nothing. I hug him as if I want to. I wait until he leaves to wipe his slimy kiss off my cheek. I pretend I want to see him next week, when I, coward that I am, will stay as silent as always.


Gretchen said...

is it modeled after the big dinner fight scene from the woman warrior?

it's pretty good :)

Tea said...

that and Fish Cheeks. And thank you :)