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The Dirty Feast This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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A long oak table drags its beefy legs across the floor, still exhausted from the weight of elbows, steaks, and hams. Its surface, scarred and stained with sticky rings, begs for a tablecloth to cover its naked stretch. But instead, expectant diners coax the furnishing from its corner and yank at its sides until it stands blushing under a rosy fixture in the center of the room. To make matters worse, the diners cleave the terrified table in two, inserting a fine young leaf into its center, and, with a loud yelp from the table, they jam the sides back together. Finally, in a last ditch effort to escape, it wobbles wildly as a candelabra is set on the leaf, but the diners are a step ahead, wedging a book under the short foot dangling in the air. As the dinnerware is set, the table sighs in surrender to an entity larger and more significant than its antique, timber mass: the feast.

A procession of porcelain loaded with green beans and butter, serving dishes leaking steam from under voluptuous lids, and grapes traipsing over glowing fruit arrangements, wipes away any guilt I have about this assault on my furniture. Feasting is unfortunately not something I get to do often, but Lord knows the prospect occupies my daydreams. Partially because my cooking is awful and usually results in large messes of cheese, and partially due to the fact that my mother is a raw foodist who lives off spinach shakes and fermented sprout water. So all I have to satiate my urges for enormous meals is Thanksgiving, a day America has set aside for just this purpose. This solitary day gives a glimpse of what I see as a potent indulgence, an experience for the senses as pleasurable as warm paint, a slow symphony, or bouquets of peonies.

My aunt arranges the marshmallows in the most delightful patterns. Soon the vat of orange paste is covered in puffy white swirls. There is both vegetarian stuffing and giblet stuffing. On this day, I always question my dietary choices. Meat dishes are the first on the plates and, as a vegetarian, I feel stupid not trying the turkey. It is, after all, the main course of the evening, taking hours of preparation, using cabinets of seasoning, and single-handedly feeding rows of voracious Italians. Then again, “meat” would also include the aforementioned giblets. These sound disgusting; I will stick to my mashed potatoes.

I am pleased to find an entire table devoted to drinks. No decent feasters would neglect to recognize beverages as an integral part of the meal. Carlos, my newly bearded cousin, pours a glass of milk from a frosty jar. Wet white covers the fledgling hairs on his upper lip. I trickle some of my dad's crude elderberry wine into a cognac glass, spilling a considerable amount onto the tablecloth. Mustachioed Carlos and I hurry to soak up the flood before my dad notices or the card table gets stained, but we only succeed in overturning a jug of cider, also Dad's. Curses tumble from our mouths as he looks up from his shucking station beside the marshmallow yams, but he just grins, a single strand of corn silk hanging from his cheek.

Gleefully, my family makes a mess of the kitchen. But this is a custom. Rows of grubby pilgrims wiped their mouths on starched collars and cuffs, and leaned lazily on one another. Roman generals bashed goblets of red wine down onto dark tables, juice flying as if in Bacchus's bathtub. General disorder validates the decadence of a feast. There is so much food, no one need worry about wasting it on fingers, chins, and napkins: plenty to go around.

Soon, the family crowds into the kitchen, unsticking their sweaty bodies from leather couches and car seats. Grabbing furiously, we ladle, scoop, and spoon soft lumps onto our plates. Then we ladle, scoop, and spoon soft lumps onto our thighs. Yes, like giant Olympians we sit together, pressing strips of bread into Merlot lips and passing the salt and butter, happy to share in the fatty wealth. I sit with my five-year-old cousin, Casey. We kick at each other happily and I pick at his untouched corn, the wine towing me swiftly downward to his age. Then in a tryptophan haze, we're lulled back to the couches, where we lie like beaming beached whales.

Foreign football rumbles in the background as I help to peel paper napkins from sticky slashes of cherry pie that cover the table. My uncle is at its other end, carefully dabbing at splats of cranberry sauce with a sponge. The sorry table sags inward as the leaf is withdrawn from between its inflamed sides and, with one last groan, the gaping hole is closed. Back in its corner, the table will again hide motionless under a heavy coat of dust until next year, when without fail, the feast will expose and ravage its decrepit surface, satisfying the urges of smutty gluttons.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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Rouge said...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm
Rosa! You can imagine my surprise when I went on Teenink today and saw  your piece! I remember the evolution of this piece well and am so proud of you. In reading this, I am reminded of how much I miss all of you TWE-ers. Keep writing!
 
legolas_elf said...
Feb. 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm
great use of descriptive language and all those similes, great job you're very talented
 
erinzombie said...
Jan. 26, 2010 at 9:00 am
amazing use of imagery. well done
 
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