The automatic doors slid open and in walked Agnes with two small children bouncing behind her. Despite only being thirty, the years have turned Agnes into a zombie. Her children clung to her shopping cart trying to ride on the sides of it. She begrudgingly pushed the cart through the aisles, picking out the items that matched the pictures printed on the coupons in her hand. About to place another gallon of milk into the cart, she notice her children looking up at her.
“Can we get some ice cream?”
Her children stared at her with longing, hopeful eyes. For years, they have been on a tight budget and can rarely afford splurging beyond the coupon book. But today, Agnes didn’t care. She was worn out. It was obvious that an absence shone in her eyes. Aside from being exhausted, something was eating at her deep inside. Perhaps it was literally the unborn fetus growing inside her slightly bulging stomach. Or maybe the fact that in six months, there will be another mouth to feed and more coupons to be clipped. But in reality, the sole pain that ate inside her was the events that occurred months prior.
Life had seemed great, not fine, but everything was going normally until the night he up and left everyone: the love of her life and father of her children. He had no legal obligations to Agnes, which didn’t even bother her one bit. But how could he not feel he didn’t have any responsibilities to his own children. To just leave them stranded and struggling enough already. How could anyone do such a thing?
But Agnes just didn’t care anymore. Life goes on, and she expects no pity from anyone. So what of it if we have ice cream just once. Agnes put on a forced loving smirk for her children.
“Go ‘head,” she said succumbing to the beady eyes staring up at her. She then placed the apple juice back into the refrigerator and moved over to the canned foods aisle. Watching as their tiny feet pattered away, Agnes turned to a sea of silver cans where her sights were set on a cheaper tomato soup brand near the top of the shelving unit.
A box boy came rushing over to her after noticing the immense struggle especially in her condition. He jumped up beside her and snatched the can down before she could even reach the shelf beneath it.
“Boy or girl?” The young man asked as he handed over the can of tomato soup.
“Huh?” Failing to hone in on the idea of someone talking to her, Agnes shook the clouds from her head.
“Oh I’m so sorry, I just assumed you were pregnant. My apologies, I–”
“No, no, it’s a boy. I was– just whatever, it’s a boy,” Agnes interjected.
“Ah good, for a second there…” The boy puffed out a one-sided laugh, but quickly realized the unenthused reaction he was getting. “Well, congratulations. You pick out a name yet?”
Placing the can in her cart, Agnes started motioning away from the conversation, wanting only to be left in peace.
“Um no, I haven’t really… I don’t care, what’s your name?”
“Paulie,” the boy answered holding his nametag out for her to see more clearly.
“There you go. Paulie it is,” Turning away and shuffling back down the aisle where she came from, Agnes left a baffled boy behind her and carried on with her grocery list.
Joey, five-years old, dragged his baby sister along with him. Marie had just turned two and could barely even walk. Joey waited patiently for Marie to stumble behind him as he grabbed her hand and helped to cross the store.
Finally reaching the ice cream section, Joey pulled open the freezer door and felt an immediate rush of coldness pass through him. Both stood there admiring all the different flavors of ice cream and popsicles. Joey contemplated each and every option as if he were making a life or death decision. He started reaching for a box of chocolate ice cream bars, but hesitated closing the door. He waited a few moments longer then placed the box back into the freezer and went back to a deep state of thinking.
Too distracted by the selection before him, Joey had no time to notice a tall dark figure standing behind him.
“I’d go with the Oreo ice cream if I were you,” a mysterious voice bellowed above them.
Joey jumped at the voice and turned around to find a large man standing two feet away from him. Scared at first, Marie almost starting crying until the man looked down and gave a heart-warming smile to them. Joey cautiously smiled back, remembering everything his mother had always told him about talking to strangers.
“Didn’t mean to scare ya’ll. Here,” the stranger then leaning into the freezer and pulled out a large tub of Cookies n’ Cream Ice Cream and handed it to the wary boy below him.
Joey reached out for the ice cream and held the tub in his arms. But just before running off and finding his mother, Joey told the man, “Thanks,” and quickly fled out of sight.
The two siblings finally met up with their decomposing mother in the bread aisle. Joey placed the ice cream into the cart and decided not to walk off anywhere else in the store, staying near his mother the rest of their visit.
She was just about done when she realized that she had forgotten their dinner for tonight. They quickly made their way over to the meat aisle and Agnes bent forward reaching for a package of some no-name hot dog brand. Just as she grabbed the bottom package, the rest of the hotdogs slid off the rack and onto the floor around them. Flustered and embarrassed, Agnes crouched down trying to gather the slippery bundles before anyone could see. A man had rushed over to where the family was standing and dropped his basket to help Agnes.
“Here, please allow me. You are in no state to be bending over like this,” the man said to Agnes. Taken aback, Agnes slowly stood up and wasn’t sure to feel offended or gracious. The man picked up the rest of the packages and placed them perfectly back onto the shelf.
“Thank you, you’re very kind,” Agnes replied to the mysterious man. They stopped and smiled at each other shyly as if they were two high schoolers that ran into each other while rushing through the hallways. The man then looked over to Joey and Marie waiting by the cart.
“Oh, are these your kids? We met back at frozen foods. I tried to help them out, but I think all I managed to do was scare them.” The man smiled back at the children and they just looked up at their mother.
Agnes looked as if she had finally snapped out of her daze and focused all her attention on the curious stranger before her. “Well I hope they didn’t bother you at all,”
She responded as she delicately brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes.
“Absolutely not, they didn’t bother me at all.” The two strangers stared at each other for a few moments as the supermarket disappeared and they became transfixed upon one another’s eyes.
Agnes shook herself awake. “Well listen, thanks again for helping me out.” She had moved towards her cart, but was waiting for any signs from the man that they should talk more.
“Wait, um, let me help you bring these out to your car at least,” the man requested pleadingly. Agnes gave a slight grin as they all move toward to direction of the check out counter.
The man followed the family out to their car and loaded the bags of groceries into their trunk of the run down ’87 Renault Alliance. Agnes strapped Marie into her car seat and Joey buckled himself into the passenger’s side. She stepped back out and started talking to the man.
Joey noticed how they smiled at each other and laughed like children. He started getting upset as the time passed more and more, wondering what his mother could possibly be saying to the strange man from the ice cream aisle.
Agnes and the man were about to part ways when she caught her mistake, “Oh wait, you never told me your name.” The man smiled, “William. But I prefer to go by Will.”
“Well, it was very nice meeting you, Will. Maybe we could meet up sometime again?” Agnes asked daringly. She found herself drawn to the man, in a way she had never felt before. There was something about him that made her feel hypnotically curious.
“Sure, why don’t we have dinner this Thursday, I could cook for the whole family. You and your kids,” Will asked confidently.
Agnes delayed a response while mulling over her level of trust with the man she had just met. Will keyed in to her rightful wariness.
“What’ve you got to lose.” Her eyes beamed back at his with subtle admiration. Just before responding to his offer, a tiny black spider appeared up over Will’s shoulder, causing Agnes to jump back with initial fear. The spider managed to crawl perfectly along the scar that traveled from his lower neck to his jaw-bone without Will even noticing a single legs touching him.
“What’s wrong?” Will asked disconcertingly.
“There’s a…” Agnes mimed at her own neck, before reaching forward and brushing off the little bug with her soft fragile hands. Looking down, Will saw the cause of this sudden gesture and simply smiled out of pure delight for her disregard of his outward imperfection.
“Thursday works great.” Without saying another word, Agnes slipped into her car where she the impatient squeals of children berated her. Driving away, Agnes peered one last glance at the mystery man through her rear-view mirror. Before he disappeared completely from her sights, she watched as he bent down to pick something off the ground.
Something inside Agnes struggled a bit, almost like butterflies in her stomach. For the first time in years, Agnes felt something other than pain or remorse Drowning out the tiny voices around her and the incessant kicking at her belly button, all Agnes could think about was what to wear for Thursday’s dinner.
Fifteen hours of roasting, baking and waiting lie out on a round table before four members of the family. An array of foods fit for a king’s buffet line. Fried turkey and mashed potatoes form the bookends for this feast with casseroles and platters of side dishes filling in the empty spaces in between. The feast was a very important tradition for the family. They didn’t celebrate any holidays or birthdays, but only a feast on the first day of each month. The leftovers made easy meals for everyone to enjoy over the course of the next week or so.
Five empty plates sit in front of five chairs equally spaced apart. Despite being a round table, all the focus and attention seemed to draw towards the seat occupied by the man. Will barely moved. Only his eyes moved as they constantly scanned across the three children stewing around him. To his left sat the eldest son. Will’s personal favorite, yet he would never say that aloud, merely allude to it through obvious gestures. Joey was only five years old when Will took control of this family. All the children were home-schooled where each had built a knack for a particular subject. Joey, despite being the most physically fit and apt for strength, specialized in numbers. He was especially well with accounting and took up the family’s finances when he was just 15. Will and Agnes had always entrusted Joey with all their life savings and bills and taxes. Whether an interest was instilled upon him or grew naturally with his personality, Joey always seemed to enjoy these subject matters.
Despite having just turned 21, the eldest child finds no reason to leave the house. In fact, none of the family has any intentions on leaving. Only ever on the occasional morning would Joey wake up early to go jogging around in the woods by his lonesome.
Joey sat anxiously. His hands tapping against the table, eager to dig in to all the food in front of him, mocking him. Yet like his father and two siblings, Joey stared blankly with emotionless eyes. If a stranger were to enter into the house at that moment, he would think the house was a wax museum and that no living person resided there at all.
Beside Joey, sat the middle child and only daughter, Marie. Joey had always had somewhat of a close affection for Marie. But it didn’t seem to bother Marie at all; in her mind she could come up with a million different love stories, almost only living inside these fake dreams she makes up.
Just shy of entering her third decade of life, Marie has a strong affinity for literature and hides away inside her room every day, sunrise sunset. She rarely ever even leaves the house except for an occasional visit to the backyard. Whenever anyone catches a glimpse of Marie in her room, he or she will more than likely see her holding open a book yet staring longingly outside the window almost as if she was waiting for someone to come find her.
This month, Marie had to take charge of the feast. She had always helped in the cooking, as did everyone in some small way, but the daunting task was throw on Marie as if she had any choice. It was a lot of work and patience to assemble together. It took her two hours just the prepare the turkey and oven for baking. But Marie didn’t care at all, she accepted the chore as happily as she could and went on with it. She hardly ever shows any emotional attachment to things, but her family could still read any feeling she had just by being near her.
Marie was a sitting tightly on her chair. A few strands of her long black hair covered down over her absent brown eyes. Her clothing was quite baggy and looked as if she was curling up in a blanket. Where she lacked in physique, she more than made up for it with her beauty. The kind of beauty that never seen a drop of make-up, nor ever should. If she attended a traditional public high school, all the eyes of the drooling teenage boys would be transposed upon her relentlessly.
Seated next to her was Paulie, the youngest child. The young teenager also happens to be the most curious and intuitive of any family member. He often lives in the dark shadows of the household, creaking around and spying on every conversation. He liked to be open about family issues, yet longed for privacy of his own. The only place Paulie found such desires was in the bathroom. Aside from having a nice place to be quite, Paulie was deathly obsessed with germs and cleanliness. He often times took as much as three baths a day.
When first being taught by Will in home schooling, Paulie always understood the biological subjects best. He would read up on new diseases and bacteria found and feel the need to warn each person in the house about catching one. Paulie couldn’t stand to go outside much but felt obligated whenever Will and Joey would go hunting or work on the yard. He never actually joined in with him, but he still felt as much a part of it as they did.
Paulie had awful posture and looked as if he were brooding over an egg while he sat in his chair.
The family had been waiting in a dead silence for almost an hour. No one stood up, or went to the door. They all just sat in their chairs, waiting for the empty seat between Will and Pauile to be filled. The tableau of steadied breaths was immediately broken when the sound of footsteps gradually grew louder and louder from the driveway until it came straight up to the front door. Once the woman flung open the wooden entryway using the points of her elbows and braces of the feet, the family turned to see their mother standing across the room smiling at them with dirtied hands.
“Sorry I’m so late, I got caught up in an errand and couldn’t keep track of the time,” the mother said.
“Quite all right, darlin’. Just hurry on up so we can start this feast,” Will said.
Agnes hustled toward the kitchen sink and began rapidly scrubbing her arms and hands clean from the dark substance that covered her limbs.
“You OK ma? What’s that stuff you got on you,” Joey asked cautiously knowing not to be too suspicious.
Agnes dried her hands on a white cloth draped over the oven handle and took her spot at the table. She looked warily at her husband before attempting to respond to her son. Will glanced over to Joey and replied for her, “What your mother has done is just between me and her. She has her resolutions, just as you all have yours.”
“Are we ever gonna know what this resolution is about Father?” Joey questioned with growing animosity.
“ You know the rules. No one talks about the resolution until everything’s finished. Now that being said, let’s all give thanks to your sister for cookin’ up her very first Feast,” Will said focusing the attention on the timid girl sitting across from him.
“I’ll say, it all looks great. And have you seen any better-looking food. You might as well cook the feast all the time from now on,” the mother said staring at Marie.
“Oh, well no one can cook as good as you can,” Marie responded, pushing out the word with such practice and force.
The mother smiled gratefully and gave a generous glance across and table to see all of her precious children and her loving husband. Agnes always looked at her husband as if he came straight from the Heavens to save her from the hell she came from. She idolized him and never forgot how much he has done to support this family. Agnes always had a hard go of things and never lived a normal life with a loving family until she met Will. When she couldn’t help her kids, Will was always there to take her place. Yet tonight something itched across her mind as she watched her husband dig into a turkey shank.
A confusion took over her and she couldn’t quite ignore it as she is so used to doing when it came to Will’s requests. She forced the thoughts to the back of her mind and told herself to bring it up some other time. Not tonight, tonight was an important night. The February feast had already begun and she wasn’t about to let her own thoughts ruin that. She reached in towards the middle and grabbed the basket of corncobs and placed one gently on her plate. She passed it to Will, and kept going till it made full circle round the table and back into the center where the basket now lie empty.
“So, anyone got any ideas for what to add to the garden this year?” Will said trying to spark an easy conversation between he and the three children. They immediately all started blabbering about various flowers and animal feeders, Will nodding happily as they bantered. Amongst the talk, Will turned to Agnes and caught her gaze through the corner of his eye. He gave a slight eyebrow lift and waited for any sign of reply from Agnes. She darted her eyes between her distracted children and anticipating husband, knowing exactly what he was asking, but wanting only to forget. Obediently she nodded her head a couple times, biting the inside of her lower lip and giving Will a quick glance back.
Will’s entire demeanor changed within that one moment. He sat straight up in his chair, grabbed Agnes’ hand on her lap and raised his champagne glass up into the air smiling at everyone. The children immediately stopped talking and refrained from saying anymore to each other as their entire devoted attention was given to the man before them.
“I just want to tell you all how very happy and proud I am of each and every one of you. It seems like just yesterday we were all celebrating the new year. This is shaping up to be the greatest harvest this family has seen thus far. Cheers!” Will announced as everyone picked up their glasses to tap with one another. Each person had a different style of champagne glass they used. The family owned very nice and expensive things, but none of it ever matched anything else.
Everyone downed his or her champagne, even Marie and Paulie. The feast continued and the majority of the conversation was held between Will and Joey about the winter season ending early and how they could start the gardens and planting within the month. The two talked like best friends and hung on to each word the other would say. Joey came to an age where he could either leave the house and start his own life or help support the perfect little life they have going on here. Agnes and Marie bonded over the cooking process of the feast, which basically consisted of Agnes giving Marie advice on how she would have cooked the food.
But sitting unusually sound was Paulie. Now the boy rarely adds any input into conversations yet always seems apart of anything anyone ever says just by listening. But tonight, Paulie didn’t even listen.
Everyone grew full yet no one stopped eating until each and every crumb was consumed. The table was down to a few rolls and the small dollop of mashed potatoes. Just as Will was about to finish off the last spoonful of potatoes, he froze in place and noticed a tiny stream of water slowly sliding on the left side of Paulie’s pale white cheeks. Will put down his spoon and turned his head directly at the teary-eyed boy. The sickening silence drifted past the table as everyone turned from Will to Paulie.
Paulie looked up to see everyone’s clear eyes starring into his watery ones. He wiped the tears away with such agility as if there was a chance no one had seen them at all. But they all had, and Paulie’s stomach bounced right up into his throat where he couldn’t even uttered a single noise.
Agnes slammed her napkin down on the table and was about to get up out of her seat, when Will raised a hand at her and she calmly took her seat again. She fumed on the inside. Will leaned in towards the shaking boy and asked, “What’s wrong Paulie? This is supposed to be a merry occasion, yet look at what I see right in front of me.” Will grabbed the napkin sitting on his own lap and tossed it on the table just inches from Paulie’s chest.
The boy didn’t move or even gesture at the napkin. “ Go on, wipe your face,” Will demanded. “It’s extremely shameful to show weakness and cry in front of people.”
Paulie begrudgingly lifted up the napkin and dried the wetness from his face.
“I just−,” Paulie uttered as his throat closed up on him. Marie looked at Paulie with pity and nervousness, afraid for what might happen next. Will’s expression hung in the air, waiting for Paulie to finish his excuse.
“I just− I just miss Daisy.” The faces around the conversation immediately dropped to avoid any involvement in what was about to come. “It’s been a month since what happened to her,” Paulie finally said. Everyone then turned to see Will’s face.
Where Will’s appearance had seemed calm and focused, quickly turned harsh. He looked as if he were about to explode, yet rather than cause a commotion on a very special day, Will merely pushed out his chair and gestured for Agnes and Marie to clear the dishes and platters from the table. The two women complied and within minutes dark mahogany wood shone in the center of the table. The only thing remaining were five sparkling white empty plates that perfectly surrounded the dark clearing where the basket of corncobs used to be.
After all the dishes made their way near the washbasin, Agnes and Marie took their rightful seats again.
Will then stood up and walked over to the highest cabinet above the refrigerator unit. All the red flushed instantly from Paulie’s face, and everyone sat noiselessly in an angered stupor waiting for the inevitable.
Will reached far inside the shelf and pulled out a thick metal box. He brought the box over to the table and sat it down facing his seat. The box was the width of a plate and was covered in dents and scratches. Will lifted up the metal lid and folded it over till it hit the table. The inside was padded with black felt that muffled the items from banging around as they were removed.
Will fished inside and pulled out a 6-round revolver. Flipping open the cylinder, he loaded a single silver bullet into one of the chamber and set the bullet spinning inside. With a quick flick of the wrist, Will snapped close the cylinder and looked back up at the family around him.
He held the gun in his hand, pointing it at Paulie and said, “Why don’t you start us off this time.”
Credit To – K.P Siebert
Credit Link – http://www.amazon.com/Feast-K-Siebert-ebook/dp/B00WR4J6CA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430521351&sr=8-1&keywords=feast+siebert