Watching the world go by

Margaret’s erratic face forced itself into a scowl. After a moment transfixed upon her palm she looked up fervently at the dinner guests, then back to the quivering hand.

‘I-I-I’m not sure this for me’ she said, her words travelling inwards rather than across the table.

Across steaming serving trays of soggy broccoli stalks and freshly carved turkey, the response ranged from tender to uncomfortable. Sitting to Margaret’s left, Roger heaved his gigantic thighs and turned to face her. His paper hat was moist from the glistening space before his hairline.

‘It’s a game, sweetheart’. He began in a practised, soothing tone. ‘Just a bit of fun’.

Roger’s words trotted out his mouth, over Margaret’s head and was carried away by the oven’s extractor fun. Lucy looked around the table. She feebly hoped that her weathered dad would continue to attempt the impossible.

‘Here, mum, let me she show you’. She foolishly reached for the pink, curling and translucent fish. Margaret gasped and snapped her hand shut into a throbbing fist. Roger raised his own before halting its trajectory towards a consolatory tap; decades of experience and he was still instinctively attempting to calm his wife as if she were like any other person.

Robert, in completely virgin territory, looked glumly at the food and then to the blank face of his blinking phone. He begrudged being exposed to Margaret’s meek helplessness.  The adolescent was completely bereft of a compassion, a deficiency compounded by discomfort. He channelled his senseless irritation by disfiguring the 3D puzzle game that dropped out of his cracker in his fist.

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‘I-I-I’m not sure I like it’ Margaret whimpered. The fish fell elegantly to the sticky linoleum.

Roger cleared his throat in an attempt to remove the lump that had swollen there. Everybody was looking to their edge of the waxed dinner table. Roger was morose; Lucy, dejected; and Robert, sullen.

‘Well, let’s eat’ Roger stated, as if the delay were caused by an unsolicited telephone call.

All plates were full bar from Margaret’s. She listened to the meal, bemused (as usual) by the silence that never ceased to find her.

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