My mother and step-father hosted dinner parties. The young couples of the neighborhood showed up with wine bottles and casseroles in shallow, glass dishes. This would guarantee them a casserole in return, baked in the same dish. A trap, honestly, implemented to continue the cycle of social expectation. Suburban middle America had an etiquette all its own. The doorbell never rang because our mother would be watching for cars through the sheer curtains. But the squeak and rattle of the screen door, followed by high, forced pleasantries was my cue to hide myself away upstairs. My younger brother followed at my heels. Anytime we had company he 'd bring a game from his room into mine and beg me to play.
"Jamie, you 're so boring, you only ever want to do puzzles. What about Operation?" he complained.
"I like puzzles, Greg," I told him. "But I want you to pick it out, alright?"
Greg rose from the carpet in the way only a child can, seemingly all at once. He ran out the door and was only gone a second before returning with a square box.
"This is the one I like," he said as he shook the lid from the bottom. Pieces tinked together and bounced on the floor in a cacophony. He could make any activity loud.
It used to be my favorite, too. Pink sunset with Lisa Frank dolphins swimming beneath the waves. Whales, turtles, jellyfish, all with sparkling eyes and glittering, glow-in-the-dark outlines. The pieces were worn, too easy to fit together, and the color strained my eyes. It was a garage sale find that Greg bought for a quarter. As he scattered the 250 pieces over the carpet with his small, pudgy hands, I remembered how proud it made him to buy something with his own money for on...
... middle of paper ...
...urned to me. "Jameson, can you take your brother upstairs?"
Blinking a few times to clear the fog that had gathered at the front of my mind, I rose to pick Greg off the sofa.
"Here we go, buddy."
I carried his soft body over the shards and set him down on the carpet next to me. He was teary-eyed, but not enough for him to start crying. I felt a sad half-smile curl my mouth and lift my brows. I looked like Mom.
"Hey, it 's fine. It happens." I patted his back and followed him up the stairs. The scuttling sound of bodies resulted after our exit. Now no one could sit idly as ceramic pieces tinked together in a paper bag. Like puzzle pieces in a cardboard box.
"Sorry about your mug, Joy."
"No worries, Dana. It wasn 't much to look at anyway."
And that hurt more than any jagged china could.
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