My mind jumps back in time. Twelve-year-old me was sitting at the dinner table with Grandma and Grandpa for supper. I stared down at the blackened crust atop Grandpa’s overcooked meatloaf. As he sawed through its center to distribute slices to me and Grandma, I knew it would taste just like last time: more salty than instant ramen. The green beans and corn side dishes were equally brined. And while I didn’t like Grandma, I wished she had made supper. At least she could cook.
“Sean,” Grandma barked suddenly in her smoky voice. “Say the prayer for us, boy.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I complied, resigned to the inevitable. Still, I knew how to say the prayer the way she liked: short, sweet, and respectful.
I closed my eyes and clasped my fingers together in front of me. “Lord, we thank you for this food. Please bless it. Amen.”
When I opened my eyes and looked at her, she briefly smiled at me, verifying her acceptance. Then she took a bite of the meatloaf and almost spit it out. Aggravated, she cursed and focused her ire on Grandpa. Her deep blue eyes were like lasers.
“Jeremy Winter, what is this supposed to be??”
“Meatloaf,” he replied apathetically.
She cursed again, picked up her slice from the plate and threw it at him. He barely deflected it with his right arm. The tomato sauce covering the meatloaf splashed across the top of his long-sleeved white shirt. He sighed. I could see he was mentally bracing for what came next.
“I’ve had juicier cereal—before adding milk!” she yelled. “You’re gonna get on the phone right now. Order us some pizza. And you better not mess that up!”
“All right,” Grandpa said without looking up as he wiped off his hands and shirt with his napkin. Then he took out his mobile phone from his pocket.
“Honestly, do you expect me and your grandson to go without?” she muttered.
Grandma crossed her arms over her chest in a huff and looked away from Grandpa. She was shorter than Grandpa and her wide and angular shoulders made her drab gray blouse spread out like a tent, especially the way she always hunched forward. Her bitterness had aged her beyond her fifty-eight years. Frown lines tugged the sides of her mouth and she had developed a permanently furrowed brow above the thick, square-framed bifocal glasses she’d be blind without. She dyed her shoulder-length hair black, but her natural silver roots were starting to shine through.
I’d seen pictures of her and Grandpa from when they were much younger. Grandpa appeared to be a stylish charmer, based on his confident poses next to Grandma, who was very beautiful back then. She had a bright complexion and long, wavy hair. She seemed easygoing and had a wide, infectious smile that complimented Grandpa’s boyish face, crisp mustache and goatee. He’d lost the goatee, but he still had the mustache and a full head of white hair.
I liked Grandpa, especially talking with him one-on-one. He showed the most positive interest in me since I came to live with them. He was closer to my mother, too, based on our conversations. She’d told him when she was pregnant with me, and he’d broken the news to Grandma.
Grandpa still refused to look up from the phone. “I’m calling right now, Debra.”
He sounded miserable already. I felt sorry for him.
I’d learned to stay quiet when Grandma was this angry. She grabbed a cigarette from her purse on the table and lit up right there. The odor of the burning tobacco immediately saturated the air. Then, without another word, she walked to the dining room door, opened it, and walked directly onto the back porch. It was what she did when she wanted to calm down. Grandpa finished making the pizza order and grabbed a beer from the refrigerator.
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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