“Babe!? Hey, babe! Those wings done yet!?”
Edith arched an eyebrow as Roger’s voice echoed through the living room, through the dining room, and into the kitchen. It was a grating sound, just audible over the roar and rush of the football game. “Just a few more minutes, dear!” she called back sweetly.
Sighing, she bent over and pulled the wings out of the oven. The strong barbecue-and-chicken scent hit her nose, making her stomach twist. She would never understand the appeal of barbecue; messy, sloppy stuff. And chicken was … well … chicken. No, it was red meat for her, lightly grilled, with just a dash of mint.
“Coming, dear!” She moved the wings onto a large platter with a pair of tongs, added two huge cups of ranch dip, and loaded the whole thing onto a cart already groaning under the weight of potato chips, cheese curds, pigskins, and soda pop. With a heave and a grunt, she angled the cart through the kitchen door, around the dining room table and chairs, and into the living room. A hard left and a right, and she slid the cart into position directly in front of Roger’s recliner.
He perched on the front edge of the seat, eyes locked onto the television screen. He dipped his head in her direction, but did not look up. “Thanks, babe,” he said absently, then “No! What the hell was that! At the twenty yard line? What the hell?!” Groaning, he flopped back in the recliner as the game cut off and a commercial for Big Ernie’s Big Grills came on.
… She did need a bigger grill …, she mused.
Humming under her breath, Edith leaned slightly towards Roger. “Anything else, dear?” She patted his shoulder, squeezing the tissue between her fingers.
“Ow!” Roger frowned up at her.
“Sorry, dear,” she apologized, offering her most comforting smile. She patted his head, the strands of hair thin beneath her fingers. Somedays, she almost missed Gary’s thick blonde curls — or, wait, had that been Steve? Or, no, wait. Howard. That’s right, Howard the Handsome. Gary had been the one who left empty beer cans everywhere.
She shuddered at the memory. She hadn’t taken the time to fatten him up properly.
“Uh … babe?”
She realized that she was stroking Roger’s shoulder, and stopped. “Sorry, dear.” She smiled brightly. “If you are all set for a bit, I was just going to dash out and run some quick errands. Dry cleaning, hardware store, Big Ernie’s — ”
“Yeah, sure, whatever. Do what you want.” Roger waved his hand dismissively and scooched forward in the recliner. He dug into the platter with both hands, not even bothering with a bib or napkin.
Well, that was one thing they had in common, at least: a gusty appetite.
“Bon appétit!” she sang, and skipped back into the kitchen.
Really, she mused as she grabbed her keys and purse, I should have changed my diet years ago. Everyone always made such a fuss when a child or two went missing. But a grown man, or two, or five? Hardly a whisper. And, on those rare occasions when anyone did come sniffing around, the lies were so much easier and more believable. He moved to LA. I think he got a job in Philly. Poor dear’s father had a stroke and he’s moved home to help out his mother.
And, really, the children themselves could be such a bother. Ill-mannered, nosy, whiney, trying to shove her into the oven ….
She paused in the doorway. “I’ll be home soon, dear. I expect to find that platter empty when I get home!” She didn’t bother to wait for Roger’s answer as she locked the door and sashayed away.
[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. A complete list of her poems and short fiction can be found there. ]