A Family Dinner. Short Story.

I hope everyone had a good weekend! Mine was fairly relaxing. I went over to a friends place to watch some movies. Saw Interstellar for the first time. I enjoyed it, there were a few points where I was like “Oh, xyz is probably going to happen.” but I was wrong, which I was happy about. Some movies/tv shows are ridiculously predictable.

I also found a wine that I enjoy drinking, which is a crazy big deal for me. So now it’s up to 3 wines I enjoy, all white. I’ve yet to try a red wine that I’ve liked, they all have a bit of a same taste to them. Though white wine does have that too, but not as strong. I definitely enjoyed drinking white wine while eating fruit like a fancy bastard. (They were grapes and strawberries. I don’t know why, but strawberries have been particularly good lately.)

I also made some American style pancakes, they were tasty enough but I found that you needed toppings with them, whereas with the crepes style pancakes I usually make, they can be eaten on their own fairly easily. Next time I make them though I’m definitely going to use butter in the pan, which would probably make them a bit nicer by themselves.

Beyond that I wasn’t up to too much, editing and the like. Yay!


On with the show!

Margret hung up the phone and grabbed a pad and pencil. Taking them both she sat at the table, then began to jot down things she’d need. After a moment she read over the list again and started to cross things out. Sighing in frustration, she took the top page and balled it up. She needed to have a think first, decide what she was going to do. She tapped the pencil on the pad lightly, well the boys always enjoyed lamb chops or a good roast dinner. The lamb chops would be easier to do, but the roast might make them want to visit more. Then again, the roast might be a bit heavy. Lamb chops it was. She wrote them on the list, then started adding more things, obviously she’d need some vegetables and potatoes, maybe mashed. They always enjoyed mashed potato too. When she finished the list she looked around the kitchen, the place was a mess. That was ok though, it was Friday, they weren’t coming until Sunday night so she had plenty of time to clean. She started a new page, she needed to hoover, mop, wash down the countertops. She’d have to clean off the table and set it, she could do that Saturday night. Margaret went back to the shopping list and added a bottle of wine, she almost forgot. She never drank that often, but the boys enjoyed a glass with dinner, she couldn’t remember the name of the wine they liked, but she was sure she would recognise the bottle. What was she going to wear? She would have to decide now, in case it needed to be cleaned and ironed. Margaret read over the lists once more, adding little notes here and there.

Margaret put on her heavy coat and scarf, then double checked she had everything, as she always did. Bag, keys, umbrella just in case, money and list. That was everything. She opened the door and stepped outside, then she closed it over slightly and after checking her keys were in her hand, she closed it fully and locked it. Luckily the bus stop was only a short walk from the house. It made getting around so much easier now that Harold had gone. Perhaps she would pop by in a few days and visit his grave. Have a little chat. It had been a while since she had gone down there. Margaret felt a little pang of guilt, but it was such a trek. Three separate busses and over an hours journey. She had wanted to bury him closer, but the boys had insisted that he went to Green Mount Cemetery, they said it was nicer, that he would have wanted to be buried there. She hadn’t thought Harold had any preference on where he was buried, but they had insisted on taking care of everything for her and she was grateful she didn’t have to deal with it all at once. There was so much to do it had been a little overwhelming.

Margaret got onto the bus and found a seat, it was early enough in the day, people had already gone to work, but they wouldn’t be going home for a few hours so the traffic wouldn’t be too bad. She looked out the window as the bus drove, normally she’d see someone she knew and have a bit of a chat, but she wanted to run over everything again, make sure she wasn’t forgetting anything.

Margaret got off the bus and paused by the trolleys, would she need one? The basket might get a bit heavy. She had her own roller bag, but she didn’t like to put her shopping in it before she paid, just in case the store thought she was doing something immoral or trying to get something for free. After a moment of indecision she decided to get the trolley. Besides, if she had one, she could take her time to make sure nothing was missed.

Margaret made her way through the shop, picking up things here and there making sure she had everything. She spent the longest time in the wine section, trying to remember what kind it was that they boys liked. She knew it was a red one, and the label was dark. They had brought a bottle occasionally when they had visited for dinner, but it had been a long while since they had come around and even then, they had been short visits. In fact, the last time she had seen them was at Harold’s funeral. She didn’t hold it against them really, they had important jobs, they were busy men now, they couldn’t be expected to drop everything and visit her. Of course not. They had their own lives. Soon they’d even have their own families to worry about. No, she didn’t want to be a burden or a nag. Finally, she found what she thought was the right bottle, it was a little more expensive than she had planned, but she’d be able to fit it into her budget. Just about. Though it would mean she would have to cut back a little elsewhere. No problem there, the boys were worth it. She smiled as she placed the bottle into the trolley.

Margaret stopped at a small display of flowers, should she get some? She did have a nice vase that she would like to use on the dinner table. Though what if the boys brought flowers? But what if they didn’t? The vase would be sitting on the table, empty and they’d think she had expected flowers when really she was just looking forward to seeing them. She picked up a small, cheap bouquet. That would do, she could put them in the vase to brighten up the place, and if they did bring flowers, they could be switched out easily.

Once she had finished, Margaret went to the tills. She looked at the cashiers feeling a little disappointed, then she saw Angie and joined the queue at her till. It was a little longer than the others, but Margaret did enjoy talking to Angie, she was such a nice girl, young but very polite and friendly. Margaret put her things onto the conveyer belt and caught Angie’s eye, Angie smiled at her and Margaret smiled back.

“How are you doing Margaret? Haven’t seen you in a while.”
“I’m good, sure I was only in last week.”
Angie started scanning the items.

“Are you up to anything nice over the weekend?”
“I’m not sure, myself and a few friends were thinking about going out, but I’d rather just stay in and have a girlie night with some movies. Relax a little. What about yourself?”
“Oh, the boys are coming over for dinner.”
“That’s great, they’re lawyers, right?”
“Yeah, they are. They’re so good at what they do, but they’re so busy all the time so they don’t get to visit as often.”
“You’ll have to tell me all about it next time you’re in.”
Angie told Margaret her total and Margaret paid, throwing a few coins of change into the bucket of the young man who had packed up the shopping.
“I hope you have a great time.”
“Thanks, you too!”
Smiling, Margaret left the till and walked a little distance, then she began to put the bags of shopping into her own little bag. Once everything was securely packed, she started pushing the trolley back to the bay.

A chill wind picked up as she was waiting for the bus, Margaret was glad of the scarf and heavy jacket. She peered up at the sky, it looked like it would start to rain soon. She dug around in the pockets until she located the umbrella. It was a good thing she brought it. The bus arrived a moment later and Margaret got on. She sat and again looked out the window, feeling excited, she wanted to chat to someone, but no one was on the bus. At least no one that she knew. Still, it was good she had a moment to sit and think, she ran over the list of things she needed to do and thought of a few more things to add to her list. She would have a busy few days ahead of her.

Back home Margaret unpacked everything. She paused at the bottle of wine, unsure how to store it. Was it supposed to go into the fridge? She wasn’t a wine drinker and could never remember. She shrugged and put it on the counter. It wasn’t in the fridge in the shop, so it mustn’t be that important.

Margaret woke up Sunday morning, feeling happy and fresh. She got out of bed and put on her dressing gown, then she moved through the house carefully, checking that everything had been done. She had cleaned the house top to bottom, even places the boys wouldn’t see, because they needed a good clean anyway and she was on a roll. She had intended to set the table the night before, but she had been too tired after running around all day. She went into the kitchen and grabbed out the table cloth and carefully set the table. As a finishing touch she put the small vase and the flowers in its centre. There. Perfect. She checked the time and went upstairs. It was better to get ready early, that way all she had to do was cook dinner and make a few minor adjustments throughout the day.

Margaret got into her blue dress and carefully applied make up. It was so rare for her to wear dresses these days, she usually just stuck to jeans or slacks. Dresses made her feel like she should be going somewhere, or seeing someone and sometimes that made her a little sad. After all, she didn’t really have any where to go or anyone to see. Sure, she had friends she visited, but she felt silly dressing up to go see them, or to go to the hairdressers to get her hair done, or to go out to do the shopping. In those situations she wore comfortable and stylish clothes, or if she was feeling a little under the weather, something comfortable that she wasn’t ashamed to be seen in public in. Once she had finished with the dress and make up Margaret went to her jewellery box. She rarely wore any of it. Most were gifts from Harold or the boys. It was all expensive and beautiful. She didn’t feel comfortable wearing them outside now that she was by herself and saw no point in wearing them around the house. She picked out a small silver bracelet, a present from the boys, given on Christmas about ten years back. Then a pair of simple, single diamond earrings, and a beautiful necklace that was lined with sapphires. That had been a gift from the boys about four Christmases back, the last Christmas she had spent with Harold. The boys were too busy after that, always away on business. Happy with how she looked, and feeling a little glamorous Margaret left her room and went down to the kitchen.

In the kitchen she started to prepare dinner. She always cooked lamb slowly and on a low heat, helped keep it tender and moist, they would be put on in a little while. Margaret started off with the potatoes and carefully made them exactly how the boys liked them. She moved about the kitchen with practised ease, though it had been a while since she had cooked for more than just herself.

She checked the time, the boys would be here soon. They would probably want to chat a little before dinner, she put the plates into the oven to warm them a little. She checked herself in the mirror and patted down her hair slightly. Good, everything was good. She took down two wine glasses and sat them on the counter.

Margaret was looking at the lamb chops when the phone rang.

“Hello? Oh, Hi honey, I was ju…No, that’s okay, I understand. Myself and Tom will just have to…Oh. I see. No, no, don’t worry, I know you and your brother are very busy. That’s okay. Another time. Yeah, ok. I love you too Bobby.”
She hung up the phone slowly and looked around the kitchen. All this food, she’d never be able to eat it all herself. She turned off everything and carefully packaged it all up to go into the fridge, maybe she’d get through it in the next few days. She wasn’t that hungry any more. They were such good boys, but they were just so busy all the time. Margaret went upstairs and took off her dress, changing into something more comfortable. Then, she stripped off her jewellery. There wasn’t much point in wearing it just for herself. She went downstairs and into the sitting room, where she sat on the big couch. She had never really noticed just how big it was before. Far too big for just one person. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. It was silly to be so upset. She brushed a tear away angrily, but another took its place.

After a moment she gave up and let them fall.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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