Don't ignore gut instincts.
During my second marraige, we had visited my in-laws more often than I cared to. We'd been invited for dinner. It was a nice gesture and they were decent people. The ride out of town made it even more worth my while. Along the way, we passed pastures with cows and horses in them, but often saw wild pheasant or turkeys by the creekbed.
I thought about a previous visit. At least we'd not be having toast. Everyone had been sitting around the kitchen table when a mouse peeked out of the toaster.
"Oh god!" I'd shrieked. Worse yet was my gasp as my brother in law pushed the lever down. I'm not sure if the mouse was ejected like a Pop-Tart about then or what, but I hoped it wasn't stuck inside there. I'm sure it must have jumped out before that happened. Still, I wasn't about to ever have breakfast at their house.
It was Sunday afternoon this time, so I knew I had no worries. The car turned off the main road and onto another one lined with trees--walnut trees. We passed four houses and then turned into their driveway.
We'd been there an hour or more, and gradually ended up in the kitchen, with several people gathered around the table. Rather than take up one of the seats, I found my favorite place to stand on the other side of the room divider countertop.
My mother-in-law was a good cook, since she did have a lot of experience. She never measured anything. A homemade apple pie was cooling on the stove-top, causing a delicious scent to fill the air.
One of my nieces came over and stood at the other end of the bar, watching and listening in. It still would be at least an hour before we would eat. I glanced at some nuts sitting on the counter, but then refocused.
I looked again at the almonds. I'd seen them there before. I asked my niece why they didn't put them away. She replied that they were there for everyone to enjoy, and asked me if I would like some.
"No. That's okay," I said, hoping she couldn't hear my growling stomach.
"Go ahead. Have some."
"Why? What's wrong with them?" I laughed, but secretly wondered why she was being so hospitable. It wasn't like her.
"Why don't you have some too?"
"I don't want to ruin my dinner, but you go ahead." She pushed the plate toward me.
It wasn't like her to be concerned about me. Something just didn't feel right. Maybe she'd turned over a new leaf, and maybe I had misjudged her. I wasn't sure why she seemed so jolly but it was a nice change, and I liked it. I picked a few nuts up, looked toward her, and ate them.. Her smile was wide, almost amused. How odd. I thought.
Not even a half an hour later, I was standing by the counter again. My father-in-law moved from his recliner in the living room, came into the kitchen, and settled into a chair.
"You want some of that candy I bought you, honey?" my mother-in-law asked him.
She opened a cabinet, and pushed the box of Bridge Mix toward him. He was quiet for a while and munched on the chocolaty mix. I smiled when I saw the bridge mix. It reminded me of someone close to me who liked that also.
My brother-in-law arrived and also joined in this conversation. We chitchatted about the garden everyone shared, which vegetables were ready to be picked, and about what other things were going on in the family.
Dinner was ready, everyone got there plates and had their fill.
After a while, my mother in law said, "You want to go to the living room, sweetie and sit in your chair for a while?"
He nodded, rose up, and walked toward the living room. As he came closer and was about to pass by the countertop, he spit something out of his mouth and into his hand.
My eyes widened, and time seemed to stand still. My jaw dropped even more as I watched his hand hover, as if in slow motion, above the counter-top, right where the dish was.
No! my mind screamed..
He released the object and it fell into the dish.
In an instant, thoughts flooded my mind and sent a message to my brain. In a flash, I was in the bathroom, and slammed the door shut. Leaning over the sink, I twisted the faucet handles, and scooped handfuls after handfuls of water into my mouth, and then spit it back out into the sink again and again, in between my sputtering and choking.
I could hear the muffled sounds of everyone talking in the other room, but I had no idea what they were saying, but whatever it was, it wasn't about me. There was a knock on the bathroom door. "Are you okay in there?" someone asked.
My mouth moved, but nothing came out.
"Hello? Is everything okay?" they inquired again.
Just wonderful, I thought. "Yes. I...I'm just not feeling well." I reached for a towel, and stared at it, Who had used this before and what for? I was suddenly aware of germs. They could be anywhere. The tissue paper seemed like a safer alternative so I used it to wipe my mouth. "I'm fine now. Thanks," I managed to get out.
Even sticking my finger down my throat didn't get rid of the offending items. The damage was done. I was doomed. I imagined the dynamic duo being digested in my stomach, traveling through my intestines, only coming out the other end after settling into every crevice I had. I hoped their journey would end quickly, but I knew it wouldn't be fast enough for me.
I learned my lesson though. Never again will I take what is offered that is sitting around like that, no matter how much anyone insists on it or how guilty I might feel.