Friday, November 5, 2010
Flash Fiction Fridays
This month, Flash Fiction Fridays highlights family gatherings. First up, Michelle Byrne Walsh.
Setting the Table
By Michelle Byrne Walsh
I will set the table for 13. This amuses and terrifies me. Thirteen was the number at the Last Supper. Thirteen is unlucky, but what we need. We are 13 Wolfes. Some are blood, some married into it. Two are just animals.
I flip the gold damask tablecloth upward, holding one seam down on the edge of the table with my thighs so the cloth flies, balloons, alights and exhales flat across the table pad. This Amish table will accommodate 16, but we are 13 now; one missing, one added, and the polyester tablecloth barely covers my 12 plus one highchair squeezed into the corner. They never planned on baby Evan, so I imagine he gets squeezed out a lot.
From the corner cupboard, I take down my wedding china. Seven place settings, because we registered at Marshall Field's 25 years ago and only seven people could cough up enough for that pattern. Mom's hillbilly relatives, my dad used to say. The six porcelain place settings are from an antique dealer. I splurged and bought them with my bonus, before I knew I was going to be laid off.
The plated silverware is stowed in the antique china cabinet drawer tucked in a wooden box lined with green felt. It was Grandma's. Two years ago at Thanksgiving, my mother--who had too much wine and a pain pill--told everyone the story of how each utensil was a five-fingered-employee discount. Grandma was a clerk at Marshall Field's, and she got it one piece at a time, as the Johnny Cash song goes. I put each tarnished knife down first, then go around again with tinged forks, then spoons, then dessert forks at the top of each plate, between the bread plate and the space for the crystal.
Crystal. Many wine bottles were killed here by folks wielding these goblets. Now, in the sunlight, the crystal looks cloudy. Dusty. Spots from the dishwasher. There are 11. One was smashed against the wall on Easter during a toast to my father when Kyle's girlfriend muttered, "he was like 82. He didn't die too soon."
I arrange place cards at the top of each setting. I faked calligraphy with the computer. I typed Dad's name before I realized. And I forgot baby. How could I? Would we forget to toast Dad? They both were at Thanksgiving last year. Evan was the impetus for the May backyard wedding--where we rented plain white china and glass stemware from the caterer. My mother raised her near-empty glass and said to me, "Forgive them. I'm just thankful I lived long enough to become a great grandma."
Another Thanksgiving among Wolfes. Purloined silver, mismatched china, ghosts, bastards, and slightly dull stemware.
With a blue crayon I print "Evan" on a blank place card and set it in front of the highchair.
Michelle Byrne Walsh is a garden writer and freelancer in Lake in the Hills, Illinois. She is a Contributing Writer and blogger at Chicagoland Gardening magazine, a former columnist for the Sun-Times' Pioneer Press Newspapers and has been a writer or staffer for the Illinois Landscape Contractors' Association's Landscape Contractor, Dodge Construction News Chicago, and Fire Chief magazines. A member of the Garden Writers Association, Michelle has been on WGN Radio 720’s "Let’s Talk Gardening" and WCPT's "Mike Nowak" show. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb. She enjoys writing fiction, including two as-of-yet-unpublished novels.
Note: The photo was found on http://dearlittleredhouse.blogspot.com.