I entered to be part of the annual #SpookyShowcase again this year, but unfortunately I missed the deadline for the Twitter event. So, I offer my short story to you today. Happy Halloween.
On Sundays, the family can be found sitting in the formal dining room. Father is seated at the head of the table, mother to his right, Sampson, the nine-year-old to his left, and George, the eldest at twelve, facing him. The table is set with all the Sunday best, grandma on mother’s side’s China, father’s grandmother’s crystal, and Great Aunt Genevieve’s finest linens.
Sunday meals require a lot of focus to prepare, set up, and execute. Everyone contributes to the menu planning, table setting, and cooking. The entity takes its time, savoring the satisfaction of tradition, relishing in the structure and, of course, the delicious food. It believes these cultural rituals are important, and to the best of its knowledge, appear to be a dying custom.
It slips into mother, rises, excuses herself to check on the roast. “Finish your salads,” she calls from the kitchen. “Those are garden fresh tomatoes.” A few minutes later, she’s placing a handsome roast in front of father. She sits. The entity leaves her body and slips into the man of the house. The entity enjoys playing all the roles.
“Oh, Carol,” father exclaims. “This meat smells divine.” He stands for better leverage and begins slicing the pork into serving sizes. He loads a plate, then passes. He sits.
The entity hops into Sampson’s body where the boy hands the plate to his brother. The entity returns to father, slices, passes, sits. The entity switches bodies until everyone has been served. And again as mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans are passed.
It settles into father first to eat. Savoring each morsel, he makes small talk that will not be immediately addressed. The entity moves clockwise around the table, enjoying time in each body, playing to each individuals quirks and habits. Sampson refuses to eat the green beans. He belches openly in good company and frequently rests his elbows on the table. George, who chews with his mouth open, chastises his brother’s table behavior.
Each body needs sustenance, and the entity revels in the interaction of a family dining experience. Lastly, is mother. She takes dainty bites and asks about everyone’s upcoming week. She will need to go grocery shopping tomorrow and has an appointment with her stylist on Tuesday.
The entity slips into father. “Wait a minute, honey,” he says. “I have that meeting downtown on Tuesday. Can you change your hair appointment?”
Father sits passively as mother says, “Oh dear, how did I mess that up? We are usually so very organized with our obligations. Never an overlap. Of course, I will call and change it first thing tomorrow.” She rises from the table and goes into the kitchen, returning shortly with a pie and pot of coffee. She slices up pieces and passes them to her sons. She sits.
“Thanks, mom,” George says.
“No ice cream?” Sampson asks, face merely inches from his plate as he shovels in pie.
“Not tonight. That’s on my grocery list,” she says with a smile. She offers a slice to father then pours the steaming black liquid into his cup. She sits.
“Blueberry! My favorite,” father states, practically inhaling his dessert. “Excellent meal.” He drags his cloth napkin across his mouth. “Boys, please help with clean-up.” He tosses the napkin to the table, rises and walks to the living room where he turns on the television and settles into the recliner.
George stands, collects the salad bowls and pie and dinner plates, then neatly stacks them. “You get the plates, Sammy, I’ll grab the serving stuff.” He proceeds to clear the table of the roast platter, potato bowl, and bean dish, moving them to the kitchen counter. He returns to sit at the table.
Sampson stands, and, reaching for the stack of plates, sticks his thumb in remnant gravy. With a loud clank, he sets the dishes back down then licks his thumb. He lifts the pile and walks into the kitchen. The faucet can be heard as he rinses the plates, but before loading them into the dishwasher, he pauses. His body rests against the counter.
“Sampson,” mother calls from the table. “Sunday best, dear. They must be hand-washed.” She casts a glance across the table to an idle George. “Every week I need to remind him!” She stands, removes the cutlery and glasses, and goes into the kitchen.
Sampson comes out and punches George in the shoulder on his way to the living room to curl up in front of the television. Shortly, George stands and walks behind the sofa, smacking his brother in the head.
“Dad!” Sampson whines.
“Da-ad!” George mimics.
“Boys!” their father growls. “Play nice or go to your rooms.”
George sits on the opposite end of the sofa. “He started it.”
A little later, Mother comes to join them, a cup of evening tea in her hands. They all know that it’s warm bourbon, but none of them says anything. She sits between her sons and sips. They watch the Sunday evening family movie, the entity taking turns with each member. At ten o’clock, it’s bedtime. First to prepare for slumber is Sampson. When he is washed, brushed, flossed, and pajama’ed, he gets beneath his covers.
George is next, although he takes longer in the bathroom.
Then father lumbers up.
Mother makes the rounds, cutting lights and checking doors. She goes upstairs and tucks in both boys, brushing hair away and kissing foreheads. She is grateful when George doesn’t fight her on it. She prepares for sleep, pinning her hair up and creaming her face. In bed, she leans over to carefully kiss her husband. She’s very efficient at not leaving a smear of lotion on his cheek. She lies down, closes her eyes, and sleeps immediately.
The entity exits the room, goes downstairs and finds the resting body of the housecat, Butterscotch. The orange tabby mews, stands, then stretches. The tinny bell on his collar rings as he ducks out through the pet door.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my short story. The theme this year was ‘Haunt’.
Previous #SpookyShowcase submissions:
Seas the Day!