My family was a bit different...
|Writer's Cramp: Write it in 24 hours, less than 1000 words. The New Prompt is:
An Easter meal with family, a dog and a parrot
Life At My House
“Polly wants a limousine,” Frances, Father’s parrot, always squawked. And every time she did that, Peter Cottontail, Mother’s cat, would meow in response, and my little brother Joey would immediately fall to the floor in giggles. Then the dog, Simon Says, would start to bark and chase after Peter Cottontail. Round and round the couch and chairs they’d go, and if Father wasn’t around, up and over them as well. It was quite a circus!
We older children mostly stood around and watched, half-bored with having seen it so many times. But if there was a visitor, we’d watch through their eyes, and find ourselves laughing once again.
Eventually Simon Says would collapse in a heap – usually on the strip of carpet that rested in front of the fireplace. Then Peter Cottontail would curl up on top of him, and they’d both go to sleep. That’s when Harvey, my older brother, would try to explain about how the animals got their names, and then Joey would start butting in about the Green Giant, Mother’s Hereford Dairy Cow. Harvey would attempt to conclude it when Frances would start in about Polly and the limousine, waking up the sleeping fireplace brigade. Guests at our house were never bored.
Sometimes, some of the guests would agree to stay for dinner -- once. Mother liked to create strange mixtures and then serve them up in casseroles that bubbled and burped. People never came to dinner a second time.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, Mother always started a meal off with wild forest salads. Perhaps if she had used them as the centerpiece, the mixture would have served a better purpose -- at least as far as the guests were concerned. We children: Harvey, Joey, Leonard, Caroline, and I, had long ago learned that many flowers were edible, and we ate just about anything Mother put in front of us. But visitors stared and quaked when the flower salads were brought in, and usually their faces blanched. Restlessly they'd poke at their plate of blooms, casting their eyes about the room -- anywhere but at Mother.
Next would be some kind of soup served in a black witch-cauldron. The air would be flavored with the smells of mushrooms, turnips, rutabagas or cabbage -- all blended into a pureed, repulsive-brown. Homemade bread, squishy and nutty with walnut shell fragments, would be saturated with olive oil and gently placed atop the bread and butter plates where it would sit looking like eggs, sunny-side-up.
When the guest had turned a weepy green -- the color you see when air has robbed the avocado of part of its hue because it was smashed the day before, Mom would carry out dinner.
Neither Mother nor Father would ever think of eating meat, so dinner would never consist of a spot of lamb or pork chops. Our meals were beans and oatmeal mixtures in colors that far more resembled mud pies than food.
If the guest were still with us by that time, then the strange manners of Leonard and Joey would "do them in". Joey, if you remember, was the brother who spent half of his time rolling on the floor spasmodically laughing. At the dinner table, it was his usual habit to stand on one foot while he ate his meal. Mother had tried to cure him of it, but Father always encouraged it, saying, ”Why, that makes perfectly good sense to me. It would be better if we all stood on one foot as we consumed our meal.”
Thankfully, although Father was fond of making statements like that, he seldom carried through with them. So the rest of us were free to sit in chairs, but Joey rotated feet like a human flamingo.
Then there was Leonard. Leonard never stopped reading. He used one hand to turn the pages of his book, and with the other hand – never bothering with utensils which Leonard had declared interfered with one's ability to feel the texture, size, and shape of food, tossed the meal into his mouth like a basketball player at a gymnasium.
You can see, therefore, that guests were never repeat customers. Most frequently our family dined alone, except for that one Easter when Mother invited RELATIVES.
Of course, the first thing that happened as they walked in that day was the screech of Frances. “Polly wants a limousine.” Simon Says sprang at Peter Cottontail almost before the cat got her meow out, and the circus began. Round and round they went. Aunt Bertha fainted. Their daughter, Jasmine, jumped up on the sofa and screamed louder and longer than the fire alarm at school. Dad yelled, “Stop,” and everyone froze.
We moved into the dining room then, and Mother started serving her Easter feast. She brought out the flower salads. My female RELATIVES wilted. Mom’s brother simply ate.
Next came the witch’s cauldron. Jasmine let out a single peep, but shooting a glance at Father, her mouth snapped closed as abruptly as the lid to a chest that had banged shut.
Mother served each bowl. She had made it extra fancy that day. Tiny boiled quail eggs floated in the turnip brew. When Jasmine saw one, she squeaked and silenced.
Aunt Bertha took the first taste. One spoonful, and her utensil dropped. Mother brought her another. Leonard cupped his bowl to his mouth and slurped. Joey hopped up and down, waiting for his soup to cool. Uncle Herman stared up at the ceiling and methodically emptied his bowl.
Normally, conversation was almost nonexistent at the dinner table. Father said it interfered with one’s pleasure of taste. Aunt Bertha didn’t know that. She prattled nonstop until Father lifted one eyebrow and pierced her with a stern eye. Jasmine began to snivel.
Mother carried the dishes away. She didn’t mention the full bowls of Jasmine and Aunt Bertha, but she beamed at Uncle Herman.
When Mother returned, she carried a huge tray with a centered loaf of oatmeal-barley “meatloaf.” Surrounding it were more quail eggs – these with dyed-colored bottoms. The tops were bared for the egg-yolk filling Mother had reinserted. Two green olives with red pimentos were poked into each side. The olives looked like alien eyes. Jasmine’s sniffles turned to sobs.
It was a shame we never got to dessert. I was curious about the little lumpy things in the yellowy liquid. But the RELATIVES left before Mother could bring out the tapioca pudding. Maybe it’s just as well because Father made Mother dump it all out.
After Easter dinner, my sister Caroline began humming a tuneless piece she was composing; her hands conducted the air. Father proceeded to deliver a lecture about the evils of dessert to anyone who was listening. Leonard turned a page in his book, and then Frances started off the animal brigade. And of course, Joey fell down on the floor, laughing.