Dining Dilemma

Short Story

'Jim asked me to call 'round after work, so I'll be home late,' Peter stated as he brushed Carol's cheek with a swift kiss. Carol really liked Peter’s brother but lately every time Peter mentioned his name it made her feel a bit glum.

'Uh-huh,' Carol answered tiredly as the front door slammed and the battered blue Ford ute quickly roared to life and hurtled down the street, signaling Peter was on his way to work.

Carol drained the remainder of her coffee, then forced herself to stand up, wondering why the caffeine still hadn't kicked in and why she was feeling so tired.  After all, the sun was shining outside already and the birds were chirping contentedly in the garden.  Usually this was enough for Carol to feel quite content and full of energy.

'Good morning Jenny.' Carol greeted her eldest daughter, purposefully pretending cheerfulness as Jenny breezed into the kitchen, dressed, preened and ready to get on with her day.

I wish I could feel like Jenny looks, mused Carol as she watched her daughter's ritual of pouring Lite White milk into her bowl of museli.

'You'd better wake Tommy, Mum - he's still dead to the world.'

Carol wondered what Tommy would do without his big sister to help him get through each day.  She smiled to herself as she threw a reflective look at Jenny and headed down the hall to drag her fourteen year old son, out of the land of dreams and into the land of morning.

'Bye Mum,' Jenny yelled from the front door half an hour later.

Tommy grabbed his toast and jam, ramming it into his mouth while juggling his lunch box and backpack; tearing out the door after her.

'Bye Jenny - Tommy, did you get your Science Proj...' Carol was cut off mid sentence by the slamming of the front door, bewildered that Tommy even shut the door in the first place.  Carol cleared the table methodically and removed the green linen table cloth that was becoming worn around the edges.  Glancing at the clock, she sat down dejectedly and ran a loving hand over the table, feeling the smoothness interrupted by grooves and marks that she had felt countless times before.

'So like my children,' she announced to the table.  'So smooth in places and yet rough in other ways - but so special because of it.'

And then it dawned on her.  She wasn't tired.  She was mourning.  Mourning for her table, an integral part of her family, that would soon be gone. 

Peter had suggested they sell the table as they had been left a lovely antique one by his Great Aunt Lucy, in her will.  They didn't need or have room for two tables.

Carol placed her index finger in the hole closest to her and memories came flooding back to her, as if it were yesterday.  Her four-year-old son sat at the table, hammering a wooden peg into the table top with his new hammer set.

'Look Mummy, I'm a carpbender.'

Carol's hand moved slowly to the long scratch, an arm's length away.  This time, Jenny's tear filled eyes beseeched her as she had thrown her skates on the table and realized what she had done.

Carol jumped up.  Enough of that!  It's time to be practical, she admonished herself.  There is no room for this table any more.

Later that day, Peter arrived home to find Carol in the garden, mercilessly yanking weeds from their presumed life-time habitat. 

'I'm glad I'm not one of them,' he surprised Carol with a cuddle from behind.

'Well, when it's time to go - you may as well go as quickly as possible, I guess,' Carol mused, unable to rise to a congenial banter.  'So, we had better start thinking about advertising our table, don't you agree?' continued Carol, trying to be businesslike, to hide her emotions.

'Well, we could do that,' Peter replied with a twinkle in his eye.  'But, then we'd have to learn to eat standing at the kitchen counter.'

Peter now had Carol's undivided, confused, attention.

'You know how I've just been at Jim's?' Peter attempted to explain.

Carol nodded, impatiently. 

'Well...' Peter continued, slowly, much to Carol's annoyance.  'He took almost an hour to get 'round to asking me if we would do an exchange on what Great Aunt Lucy left us.  It seems that Julie has this huge bookcase that she just can't part with and doesn't need the little one that Great Aunt Lucy left her.  But, she could really use that big old dining table.

Carol could not conceal the smile that spread across her face.

'So,' Peter continued, 'after hearing you sleep talking last night about tables, mumbling about memories and remembering how many good meals I have eaten from our table all these years; Well anyway, I think Great Aunt Lucy would understand - don't you?'


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