★ SPECIAL EDITION ★
This week is a special edition of Ermilia’s Picture It & Write writing prompt. For those of you who don’t already read and/or participate each week, please check out the post here to see what it’s all about.
A collection of favorite contributions will be compiled and published, with the proceeds donated to The Girl Effect, a charity dedicated to empowering girls to become educated leaders of their communities. I’m very excited for the opportunity to contribute to this publication and to this cause, and as always, to be a part of the amazing community of writers who contribute there each week.
I knew how to cook before I ever took “Home Ecch”, as Billy called it. I started helping Mama in the kitchen when I was nine, before I was even tall enough to reach over the stove. Still, the most horrifying words I ever heard may have been the ones out of Daddy’s mouth when Kyle asked me out on my first date.
“No one’s takin’ my daughter out ’til we’ve set down over one of her good, home-cooked meals first,” he told Kyle gruffly.
Yay! A neat package deal of two horrors for the price of one!
My protests were to no avail. Kyle was agreeable – to most anything Daddy could have said, actually. He wanted to take me to a movie that Sunday next, and so the Friday between immediately became the most dreaded night of my whole life. I was obliged to present my first date with a “good home-cooked meal” date before my “date” date!
Cooking for Daddy was one thing. Flavor, to him, was something that showed up in the occasional sermon he stayed awake through on Sundays. I saw a book once called, If You Lick a Slug, Your Tongue Goes Numb, and decided Daddy must have a habit of licking slugs before supper. He’d eat the soles of his shoes if you served them with a bottle of A.1. It seemed unlikely, however, that I would be blessed to find the papillae of Kyle’s tongue afflicted by the slimy little gastropods.
Kyle’s gustatory sensitivity aside, the real problem here was that this conversation occurred on Thursday. Mama did all her shopping on Saturdays. So with no notice, I was at her mercy to prepare the only meal available in our kitchen, the roast beef and stewed vegetables she’d already been planning.
Did I mention Daddy can’t tell a pizza from a cardboard box with a smashed tomato on it? Yeah. Mama’s roast beef dinner came in such a box. Well… three boxes, to be precise. We would all simply have smaller portions, and that would have to do. All because Daddy had promised Kyle my meal would be “home-cooked.” Technically, it’s not a lie, right?
Not much can be said for the preparations of supper that night. Obviously. The only work involved was turning three meals into four. Kyle arrived early, a habit I would hate him for come Sunday afternoon. Mama kept him company while I set the table and brought in the carefully aggregated servings of beef, gravy, stewed vegetables, and some rolls Mama happened to have more than three of in the freezer, and we sat down to the most uncomfortable meal ever. Schilde? Your table in Hell is ready. Schilde? Party of four?
If there was a plan for how to go through life without anyone ever meeting Daddy, it would be tattooed on the palm of my hand. Kyle obviously expected grace offered over the meal. To my utter embarrassment, Daddy obliged.
“Jesus, thank you for your unwitting sacrifice. Hope he’s smarter than the last one you sent. Amen.”
Kyle was the only “sacrifice”. No one had ever asked me on a date before. At least he was smart enough to offer an amen.
“August, you behave yourself in front of Annie’s company,” Mama scolded.
“How is it you two met each other?” Daddy asked. It was directed at Kyle.
“At M…” I started to answer.
“I met Annie at the library, sir. I recognized her from school.”
“Probably had her mouth shut for a change then,” Daddy said. “My wife knows when to keep her mouth shut,” he glared at Mama, “but this one’s still learnin’.”
I kept my mouth shut.
Kyle was polite and mostly quiet. I was prepared to be eternally grateful until he complimented me. “The gravy’s delicious, Annie.”
“Damn right!” Daddy lauded. “Best she ever cooked!”
I began plotting his ultimate demise – death by drowning in gravy. It seemed fitting.
Mama added, “It tastes even better than Swanson!”
I was mortified. My parents had the cumulative brains of the mollusks that had kidnapped my father’s sense of taste. Kyle ate politely and quietly, mostly with an agreeable smile. And dinner went on that way.
“Annie’s saving herself for marriage,” Daddy blurted out at one point.
Mama quickly interrupted him. “Annie did a fine job with supper, don’t you think, Kyle? She’s always been a great little cook.” She turned to Daddy,”Honey, you remember that time Annie and her little friend caught the squonk?”
I must apologize as I’ve saved that for another story, but she might as well have trotted out my nude baby pictures in all their glory. I sat through the story with all the proper color of one seated at Satan’s table.
The beauty of Hell, it turns out, is that it has always been a momentary perception. Our meal eventually ended. In pain I can only describe as post-mortem, I walked Kyle to the door, where we were granted one brief moment alone on the porch.
“Thanks for dinner,” Kyle said. “And it really was good gravy.”
I stared at him awkwardly. “Better than Swanson, to hear Mama tell it,” I said sarcastically.
Kyle laughed heartily. “‘Bout the same, really,” he said. “We had Swanson roast beef and veggies last night too!”
My guess is my whole body must have licked a slug from the way it went numb.
“See you Sunday, okay?” he laughed again, and he bounced down the steps.
© 2012 Anne Schilde