We sat around the table, my husband and I on one side, across from my mother and brother, with Dad at the head. As we partook of Mom’s chicken and dressing, my brother Josh, the college rugby star, went on and on about a player he likes on the U.S. rugby team. I smiled, politely feigning interest, though I didn’t understand most of it. “And he’s ridiculously quick. Like, no one can catch this guy. I could watch him all day.”
Matt chuckled like a middle schooler. “You could watch him all day?”
Josh nodded, oblivious to Matt’s tone. “Especially when he scores!”
Now my dad chuckled as well. Matt waggled his eyebrows, then said to Josh, “You like to watch this guy score with the balls?”
Josh’s mouth became a thin line. “Really? You just went there?” but then he laughed. “Oh, that’s nothing. Rugby’s got all kinds of bad-sounding words. Like after he scores, he might scrum all over the field. And I like to see guys rucking all day. Later, we might have to pull out of the hookers.”
“Wow…” I said, eyes wide. “I had no idea rugby was so… explicit…”
Our mom only sighed, apparently having heard it all before, but she glared sternly at Josh as she passed the potatoes.
“You always know how to add a certain amount of class to any situation,” said Matt.
“Why, thank you, sir.”
“I didn’t say which kind of class,” Matt muttered.
“Tell me more about this girl you mentioned. How did it go again?” Dad said.
“Oh, right!” Josh said, continuing a conversation they must have started earlier. “She said to me, ‘I don’t like your boots,’ so I said, ‘I don’t like your personality.’”
“Joshua David!” Mom said, breaking out the middle name. “You shouldn’t talk to ladies that way!”
“Trust me, mother. This was no lady.”
“Then what were you doing in her company?” Mom said accusingly.
Josh smiled winningly and raised his glass to our mother. “Oh, Momma! You know I’m always saying my goal in life is to drink enough vodka that I could pee on a cat and light it on fire.”
Mom wasn’t having it and swatted his shoulder. “Didn’t you read 1984?”
A line of concentration appeared between his brows. “Yeah, in high school.”
“And remember they had the lottery where they could win the women?”
Josh looked to me for guidance, but I shook my head. “I don’t think we read the same book,” he said.
“Where they all wore uniforms and the men were in charge?” said Mom.
Everyone turned to the librarian. I thought about it and said, “It’s possible you’re thinking of the Handmaid’s Tale, but I don’t recall a lottery.”
“Oh, yes,” said Mom, “and Charlton Heston ate the green crackers?”
“Soylent Green?” said Dad.
I giggled and did my best impression: “‘The Green Cracker is people!’ No, that just doesn’t have the same ring to it.”
“Maybe the recipe came from that cookbook in the Twilight Zone,” said Matt, rubbing elbows with me.
“Cooked by Sweeney Todd!” Josh added, gesturing with his fork for emphasis.
“It’s priest!” I sang. “Try a little priest!” (It’s my favorite song from that musical.)
“Now, really!” Mom said with a sharp tsk. “I was going to make a point but now I don’t remember what it was!”
“Do let us know if it comes to you later. This, I would love to hear,” I said.
“If you two keep treating your poor mother this way, Karma’s going to get you both,” Mom said, shaking her finger at my brother and at me in turn.
Josh laughed. “Who’s Karma and why is he coming to get us?”
Mom tried to be stern, but although she took a drink to hide it from us I could see the edges of a smile behind her glass. “Because you’re so sexy,” she said.
We all laughed.
Then, “Is there cranberry sauce?” I asked. “The kind that looks like a can?”
Mom smiled. “I got it just for you, baby.”
And so the meal went.