The Dinner Table

Contributor: Adi Bracken

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There’s a rumor going around that turkey puts you to sleep. Well, maybe not a rumor. More like a medically proven side effect of the turkey. It has something in it, a chemical I can’t remember the name of, that knocks you out. One minute, stuffing your face with sweet potato pie, the next a narcoleptic heap. Your face literally shoved into your plate, inhaling and exhaling mashed potato particles.
I have almost fallen victim to the Reaper’s turkey slumber when my grandmother says, “I can’t tell whether that Lady Gaga person is a man or a woman.”
My father shakes his head in irritation, amusement absent from his expression. He shifts between youthful 40’s and midlife crisis too often to guess which one will show next.
“Mom, I’m pretty sure she’s a woman,” he says. More like, he booms. A younger generation shouting over the previous one’s confusion and loss in modern times.
My grandmother pauses. “I guess she’d have to have a penis to be a man.”
I choke on the canned cranberry sauce shooting down my windpipe.
Dad gives me a dirty look, as if to say, don’t encourage her.
But I can’t help laughing at a 76-year-old woman questioning the anatomy of a pop star.

I’d rather be asleep now. I could be dreaming of all the weird shit my grandmother’s said on the holidays. I could reminisce about the time she asked the waiter at Denny’s what busting a cap in someone’s you-know-where meant. I’d giggle into my dessert plate, spit pie on the table. And that would make her laugh too.
I find myself lost in these memories at the same table. Same ancient, scratched surface, same ugly carvings up the wooden legs.
I’m laughing, but my eyes aren’t crinkling up. My brother’s not pointing at me, making inappropriate Asian jokes about how small they are when I cackle and can’t stop.
My father’s laughing. He’s a Cheshire cat.
My mother’s laughing. Something about green beans being too flimsy.
I glance at the empty chair across from me. I picture her there, talking about the gay men that hit on her before she started dating my grandpa. And for a solitary second, the corners of my eyes crinkle.

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Adi Bracken aspires to become a professor of the written word. She has been published in Eye Contact and the Setonian.
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