AT THE KITCHEN TABLE
By Maura Stone
READ IN FRONT OF A LIVE AUDIENCE SATURDAY, JULY 21, 2012 as part of a local community event
At the Stone household, the kitchen table holds a pre-eminent position. We’re foodies where the boundary between gourmand and gourmet constantly blurs, a vacillating pendulum between necessity for survival and appeasing an insatiable appetite for a new taste challenge.
When I was nine, mom replaced the old wooden table with a glass one held up by spindly metal legs. Mom loved gorgeous things. She was a beautiful, elegant woman who woke up one day to find herself married with three wild children and three feral dogs. No doubt, she was in her perpetual state of denial when she made that purchase.
The new kitchen table was a deathtrap. Actually, half the house was a deathtrap filled with antique breakfronts and delicate collectible items that rattled and shook at each footstep. And at each strike from the dogs' tails: dogs that defied basic training, constantly underfoot. They hated each other and filled their days with chronic battles for alpha status. My childhood memories center around the Stone mantra, usually bellowed from the tv room: "No running in the kitchen! No running in the dining room! No running in the living room!" Yet not a peep at the dogs to stop them from running amok.
At the new glass-topped kitchen table, my kid brother, Matt, assessed the situation. It took a mere second to evaluate that this meal was a potential disaster waiting to erupt. As the middle child, he constantly sought attention as well as innovative ways to drive mom out of her gourd. He picked up the heavy stainless steel fork and lightly touched the table while my mother attended to my baby sister in her high chair.
Mom reacted as predicted. “Matt, stop hitting your fork against the table. You know it’s made of glass."
“Isn’t it protected by the tablecloth?” he snottily asked and tapped the table with a little more pressure.
Frustrated, mom eyed him, yet he continued taunting her. “Matt, what did I tell you a few moments ago? Stop it!” she shrieked.
Encouraged, he coyly toyed with the fork. Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap. Irritated, mom leaned over and forcibly slammed the fork down. Matt, overjoyed to have won that round, squealed in laughter.
Until we heard a giant crunch.
Similar to a car accident when things appear to move in slow motion, we watched, horrified, as our entire meal disappeared in one fell swoop through the widening gap. Seated at the head of the table, my father witnessed his favorite dinner swallowed down the rabbit hole. Incredulous, he whispered, “Oh boy, oh boy.”
My brother cackled hysterically and fell off the chair writhing in laughter, “You showed me, mom!”
My baby sister saw the looks on our parents' faces and let out a blood-curdling wail.
Right at that moment, the dogs went berserk. As one, they dashed under the table, sidestepping the broken glass. Matt's laughter mingled with the dogs' grunting. We heard the tear of quality tablecloth linen replaced with barks, growls and snarls. That's when we knew they found dad's steak, cooked to perfection.
My mother, fit to be tied, couldn't decide whether to fight the dogs for the remnants of the meal, beat my brother to a pulp, or jump into the car and leave once and for all the bedlam I knew as home.
Summoning a calmness she never previously demonstrated, she said, "Art, go to the Chinese restaurant and get some take-out. Matt, you're banished to your room." Then, she pointed at me. "Maura, get the dogs outta here and clean up." She picked up the baby, stomped to the master bedroom and slammed the door behind her. In moments, ungodly sounds assailed our ears.
The three of us stared at each other. Dad muttered, "We're in deep trouble. Thanks loads, Matt," grabbed the car keys and ran out. Matt trudged off to his bedroom.
Alone, I grabbed the smallest dog, Foo-Gee, by his hind legs and dragged him from under the table. I picked him up, opened the back door and tossed him outside into the yard. I turned around to confront the remaining two. Rusty was milder than Champy, but not when it concerned food. He had a mean streak. Kinda resembled the way we are as well with food.
Risking life and limb, I bent down, avoiding the shards of glass, and grabbed a piece of dad's steak hanging from Rusty's mouth. I held on and played a tug of war with him until I pulled him alongside the back door. Opening it with one hand, I shoved him out. The last dog, Champy, stopped eating for a moment, puzzled with the sudden silence. He was the dumbest dog of the lot.
I said, "Hey, Champy, wanna join your friends?" He jumped up, wagging his stub of a tail and easily left the house.
Two days later we had a new glass table top. Mom spent the day cooking a giant batch of stuffed cabbage and proudly served each one of us. While she attended to the baby, Matt dropped his plate.
# # #
This blog and all its posts are a work of fiction. Names, character, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.