For Whom The *Dinner* Bell Tolls

Blogtember Creative writing day: write a (very short) fictional story that starts with this sentence: To say I was dreading the dinner party would be the understatement of the century.”

Dinner bell sunset

Do not ask for whom the dinner bell tolls…it tolls for thee

To say I was dreading the dinner party would be the understatement of the century. I hadn’t been back home in years and now I was about to walk into a house full of my extended family. I’d always been considered the proverbial black sheep of the family. I could count on one hand how many of us had even left the state much less moved to another country altogether. Nevertheless, there I was in my rental car headed to face the questions, the well-intentioned back-handed compliments, and the slightly pitying looks that let me know I was the one not living life. In my hometown, down in the Deep South, you went to college for an Mrs. degree, got married, bought a house, and promptly got to work on having children – preferably all by the age of 27. I was an old maid at 31. The fact that I seemed uninterested in joining the family compound  with a beer-guzzling husband and a brood of children meant that something had gone terribly awry in my genetic sequencing, and no amount of  “bless your hearts” could cover up their confusion about (or disdain for) my chosen lifestyle.

I exited the Interstate onto the winding two lane road surrounded by pine trees and cotton fields. Tonight I would see my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and a number of other people that were sure to show up in order to get the gossip first hand. They would be there after all. He was my ex-husband, who was now married to her – my second cousin somehow a few times removed, but still very close to the fold. When I told him those years ago that I wanted to travel the world, he told me he wanted children. We compromised and got a divorce. No one should get married before they can legally buy a beer, it just isn’t a good idea. Now he was happily paired off and on to child number three (or maybe four by now). Regardless, I hadn’t been back since he’d moved on and it was sure to be awkward with a bold capital A. Perhaps everyone really did believe that I was crazy and expected a show. My feelings were mostly bruised because it was my own family that set this up – and invited tons of people – and seemed to have full awareness yet zero sympathy for the situation. Family…apparently ya gotta love them.

After an 8 hour flight and a 3+ hour drive, I finally reached my dad’s house. I was hoping for a little sympathy (and a nap) before the evening’s events but instead I was greeted by my stepmom’s grandchildren – ages 6 and 9 respectively and every bit as annoyingly loud as those ages may imply. By the appointed time to leave they had performed an absolute miracle – I was happy to have somewhere, anywhere, else to go for an escape – even the dreaded dinner party.

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