The meal looked hearty, but the chicken was dry. The carefully laid table was cluttered with dishes, each ill prepared in their own way. The chicken carcass had glossy skin but underneath was blanched and flaky. The core of the roasted potato James bit into crunched, starchy and cold, he gave the mouthful a few soft chews and swallowed quickly. The steamed broccoli collapsed like seaweed, the pumpkin mash grainy and peas boiled grey. The woody smell of rosemary made James’ mouth water but the smell was just a part of the illusion, the dinner was terrible.
“How is it?” His father asked, the knife and fork in his hands looked slippery, as if melting. His mother didn’t look up from her plate.
“Great Dad, thanks.” James smiled, spilling thin gravy over his congealing peas. His father gave a wincing smile in his direction and they both bowed their heads, as if returning to a position of prayer, eyes on their dinner. Cutlery clicked and scraped against enamel like the slow shattering of a window, one crack at a time. The dining light hung low over the table like a noose. James took a mouthful of pumpkin, the sweet puree gummed up his throat and crunched, sandy between his teeth. His mother spat out a wet heap of broccoli onto the crisp tablecloth. Rising she pulled off her neat blonde wig and placed it on the table. James’ father watched his wife leave without a word before returning to his dinner.