Dedicated to Katherine Majowka
Words: Umami, Schwa, Petrichor, Aglet, Tupperware
She took the tupperware container out of the fridge and set it on the counter surveying the contents inside it. Smiling with satisfaction, Sandra set the table in her dining room and waited for her esteemed guests to arrive. It was going to be a party they would never forget. Sniggering to herself, she decided to place two wine bottles on the table.
The doorbell rang. Sandra answered and her friends Maggie and Deanna walked in. They hung their coats on the rack inside and followed her into the dining room.
“I can’t believe this weather!” Maggie stated.
“We are in New York after all,” Deanna replied nonchalantly.
Sandra waved her hand dismissively and offered them each a glass of wine.
“It could be worse,” Sandra replied. “At least your aglets aren’t frozen.”
“Aglets?” Maggie and Deanna asked simultaneously.
“The plastic part of your shoelaces,” Sandra explained.
Maggie and Deanna shared a glance with each other and then back at Sandra.
“Oh please, sit down,” Sandra said. “Enjoy the wine. We have others that should be coming and then we can have some real fun!”
Maggie and Deanna sat next to each other at the dining room table, sipping slowly at their wine. A few minutes later the doorbell rang again. Sandra walked in with two more women, Natalie and Donna.
“Please, make yourselves at home,” Sandra said to them and they complied.
Walking into the kitchen, Sandra took a serving spoon and a huge bowl out of cabinet and drawer. She opened her tupperware container and poured the contents into the bowl. After mixing it with the spoon, she brought it into the dining room.
“This will be our first course, a type of pudding that I put my heart and soul into making. I so do hope you enjoy it,” Sandra explained and began to scoop out slops of the pudding into each women’s bowl.
Taking the bowl back into the kitchen, she then walked back into the dining room empty handed and sat in front of her own bowl.
“Dig in everyone!” She said.
Donna was the first to brave the pudding that looked very off to the rest of the women. Picking up a spoonful of what she considered slop, she put the spoon of pudding in her mouth. Swallowing the contents, a look of amazement came across her face.
“I never expected such an umami taste from pudding, but this tastes really good. You’ve outdone yourself so far, Sandra!” Donna applauded.
The rest braved the contents of their bowl and ate, their taste buds satisfactorily surprised. Sandra smiled and the women didn’t even realize that Sandra not once bothered to touch her spoon. When the women were finished, Sandra got up again and walked back into the kitchen. Putting on oven mitts, she took out a roast. Taking off the oven mitts, she took out a cutting knife and cut several pieces of the roast and put it on a serving plate. Bringing this out to the waiting women, she beckoned them to hold off until she brought the rest of the food out, which consisted of mixed vegetables and baked potatoes. Once everything was served, she allowed the women to eat.
“Sandra, you’ve barely touched your own food,” Maggie observed.
“Oh it brings me great joy to see my friends eating and enjoying what I have labored to prepare,” Sandra explained.
“Save the formalities for your English class!” Natalie commanded.
“Natalie, that’s rude and uncalled for,” Deanna chimed in.
“Oh it’s alright,” Sandra said while pouring herself some wine.
After observing Sandra taking a sip of wine and spoonful of pudding, the women were satisfied and went back to eating. Sandra was delighted and listened to her friends talk. One of them brought up the word schwa. Sandra laughed mentally. It was such a misunderstood word and even these women, all of whom were English professors were barely reaching the mark of its true meaning.
“My dear friends, you know schwa is the unstressed syllable in a word-“
“Yes, yes, we were just saying. However, we were talking about how to make it easier for our students next week,” Natalie cut her off.
“Nat, really! How did you ever get into this field with that attitude?” Maggie demanded.
“It’s alright,” Sandra laughed and observed that the women had stopped eating for some time. “I think it’s time for dessert.”
“We couldn’t,” They all replied.
“Nonsense!” Sandra stated and walked into the kitchen.
Opening her freezer door, she took out a red velvet sheet cake and brought it into the dining room. The women were mesmerized. Smiling, she handed a cake knife to Natalie.
“Why don’t you do the honors of cutting the slices for everyone,” Sandra explained.
Natalie frowned but quickly smiled.
“Sure,” she said and began slicing the cake into slices. She dished out the pieces of cake to each woman and sat back down.
“Now then,” said Sandra. “I’m glad you have all come and I wanted to propose a toast. A very special toast,” Sandra continued. “To the fine diners here before you, who have partaken in a ritual unbeknownst to them until now.”
The women looked around and back at Sandra. She had been known to be weird but they sat in silence, waiting. Their hands around their wine glasses they looked at Sandra waiting for an explanation.
“First, let us all drink to our good health and fortune, and to have a successful rest of the school year and many more years to come!”
The women cheered at that and as they all clinked glasses together, they drank their wine. Then they continued to look at Sandra.
“Now, if you please, I have something very special to show you,” Sandra explained. “Please step away from the table.”
The women each got up and stepped back from the table. They were beckoned by Sandra to step further away from the table so they were at least three of four feet away, which in Sandra’s house was not impossible. With a sudden display of strength, Sandra ripped the table cloth off the dining room table and before the women was a glass display of their partners’ heads on plates. Maggie’s wife’s head, Deanna’s husband’s, Natalie’s life partner, and even Donna’s new boyfriend. The women screamed as they realized the exact feast they had partaken in. Their screams were music to Sandra’s ears.
Years later, locked behind bars, Sandra had grown extremely thin but muscular. Each woman she had fed in the past had pressed charges and due to the circumstances had needed mental health care. Sandra smiled at the memory of her exacted revenge for her loneliness.
Laughing in her solitary confinement, she counted the days when the end would be near. It would always be her that would have the last laugh. The days were long and summer was brutal. After a long draught, it rained. Smiling, Sandra had always loved the smell of petrichor.