“Mary, where are the olives? You can’t possibly expect to serve this relish tray without olives.” He pushes the white, ceramic platter across the table. Pickles, carrot sticks, celery stalks, radishes, tomato and cucumber slices, and raw mushrooms ricochet from the wall to the floor.

“What did you say, Paul? I can’t hear you; the washing machine’s on. I’ll be upstairs in a minute.”

He flings the refrigerator door open. “God damn, son of a bitch. Son of a bitch! Jam it in. That’s all you know how to do. Jam it in there.” He blindly throws the ketchup bottle behind him. It shatters against the wall. The blood-red condiment splatters onto the table. With a dull thud, the freshly marinated London Broil hits the wall and slides to the floor, leaving an oily stain on the wallpaper. With accelerated, but rhythmic momentum, he proceeds to clear off the second shelf. Globs of mayonnaise fall onto ketchup. Raw vegetables float in a puddle of cream.

“Paul, what are you doing?”

“You don’t know how to prepare a meal. You don’t know how to be a wife. You don’t know how to be a mother. Son of a bitch!”

Maggie, their ten-year-old daughter, stands in the doorway, watching his frenetic, passionate behavior. He reaches for the jar of orange juice. Prepared to throw it against the wall, he turns around, noticing her. The muscles in his face and arm relax, but that vein which juts from his neck when he’s angry, throbs noticeably. The bottle slips from his hand and shatters, unleashing its sticky, orange contents into the inedible mess adorning the floor.

She’s beautiful, he thinks, then pauses. “Son of a bitch,” he mumbles as he pushes her out of the doorway with a sweaty, sticky hand. She stumbles, but quickly regains her balance. “Bitch,” he spits in Maggie’s face.

“Paul. Paul, what’s going on up there?”

“You don’t know how to prepare a meal. You don’t know how to set a table. Fucking, son of a bitch.”

Maggie stares at him. “You’re just like her. Disgusting tramps. I wouldn’t lower myself by eating at the same table with either of you.”

He stalks out, slamming the front door.

“Paul. Paul.”

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Carra Leah Hood, Emerita of Writing and Associate Provost at Stockton University, writes in expository, academic, and creative genres.

Carra Leah Hood
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