He sat down at my Mother’s table, in my father’s spot, even though he didn’t ask if he could. My mother, brother and myself were each seated in our usual spots, so my father’s spot was the last remaining one open, but still, he should have asked.
My mother was all smiles that Thanksgiving, instead of all cursing, and when I looked at her from my side of the table, I noticed she was wearing my dangly earrings; my only dangly earrings. She didn’t ask either. Everything he said required my mother to nod emphatically with him, and those dangly earrings nodded with her, keeping beat each time they grazed her cheek and neck. They were stupid earrings anyways.
I gnawed on my turkey, watching those stupid earrings when I turned to look at my brother, who was already staring at me.
We locked eyes and identical, crooked smiles formed on each of our faces. We had a mission to complete.
Not wishing to draw any suspicion from Mother, we turned our attention back to our plates, waiting for the moment our plan would turn into action.
He talked for what seemed like hours, always boring topics. My mother spent most of her meal with a mound of mashed potatoes on her fork, perched in her hand, half way between her plate and mouth, always smiling, nodding, and only taking forkfuls of food when he turned his own attention back to his plate.
Finally the conversation died away, and just the scrapes of the fork on the plates and between teeth could be heard. The tension between my brother and I suddenly grew thick. Surely Mother would be alerted.
I took a deep breath, and as calmly as I could, not taking my eyes off the plate I said “Applecore”. I said it so much louder than I had planned.
“No!” my mother said.
“What was that?” he asked Mother.
“Oh, nothing.” My Mother said and smiled sweetly to him.
Quiet fell over the table again. I could hear everyone chew. It dragged on so long, the silence, I thought for sure my brother had aborted the mission.
“Baltimore” my brother finally said.
“No! I mean it!” My Mother said sternly. There was no smile this time.
Braver now, not to be out-dared by my little brother, I said “Who’s your friend?”
“Don’t you dare!” My mother hissed at us.
He stared at us, brows furrowed high on his vast forehead.
My brother put his fork down, and raised his napkin. Oh, No. Surely he wasn’t admitting defeat in our mission now! We were so close!
He used his napkin to wipe his mouth, turned and beamed at me.
“Len” my brother said.
I stabbed my boiled-to-perfection brussel sprout with my fork with gusto.
“Amanda…” my mother said.
I turned my fork in my right hand, tines to the ceiling, handle gripped in my fist. The brussel sprout slide further onto its spikes.
“Don’t!” Mother said, placing both hands on the table.
“What’s going on?” he said.
I raised my fork a bit higher, my left thumb finding the right spot on the tip of the tines. I pulled back the catapult.
“No!” Mother said. Here comes the cursing.
This was my mission and I couldn’t let my brother down. I released the fork catapult and that brussel sprout flew through the air in a courageous ark, in a direct flight to its target.
My mother reached out to try and grab the brussel bomb in mid flight, but missed.
“Dammit, Amanda!” Mother said.
My brother laughed. I sat up tall, proud of the missions direction thus far.
The brussel bomb made contact with its target, leaving a green skid mark across his bald head, and finally falling to the floor right behind his chair.
“What the fuck?!” he yelled and ejected himself from his seat, pushing the chair backwards. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
My brother stopped laughing. I held my breath.
“They’re just being kids. She didn’t mean any harm.” My mother said. She leaned towards me in her chair, her hand reaching towards me.
“They’re being fucking brats!” he said, still standing. He leaned towards my mother, over the table, his face getting red, and pointed a meaty finger towards her. “What kind of mother are you?”
“You should leave.” my mother said with such calmness that both my brother and I cringed with the fury that was about to be unleashed.
“Fine!” he said, and pushed his chair back towards the table. As he stepped back, he stepped right onto the brussel bomb, grinding it right into his socked foot. “Fuck!” he said as he limped towards his shoes and the door. He grabbed his jacket and out the door he went with a slam.
Mother returned to her meal, as we listened to his car pull out of the driveway, spewing more gravel than necessary in his wake.
“I’m sorry, mom” I said.
Mother continued to eat, with a pace much faster than she had during the first part of the meal.
“I didn’t mean to-” I started
“Applecore” said Mother quietly.
“What?” I said. I must have misheard her.
“Baltimore?” my brother said sheepishly. He and I looked at each other. We were out of our element now.
“Who’s your friend?” mother said, not lifting her eyes from her plate while she pushed her mashed potatoes into a tall mountain.
“Um… Amanda? Please?” My brother said. He leaned back in his seat as though the table might bite him. I looked at my brother again who looked just as confused as I felt.
I looked back at Mother “Mom, I- ”
And then the counter attack happened. The fork catapult launched the mountain of mashed potatoes that only moments ago had been on my mothers plate and splatted them right in my face. Some made their way into my open mouth, some on my glasses, some making their way into my hair. I had been hit!
I looked at my mother, searching for a trace of a clue on her face as to what had just happened.
“He had bad breath anyways. Are you ready for dessert?” Mother said.