The Fergusons are visiting for the weekend.
Beverly is lactose-intolerant, so we have to make sure there’s some soy milk for her. Her 16-year-old daughter, Cartier, is a strict teenatarian: She will eat no food recommended or served by anyone older than her friends from Instagram and Snapchat. So she eats next to nothing, but constantly comments on what others are eating.
“I can’t believe you’re eating something with a face,” she says at breakfast. “That’s disgusting. Doesn’t it bother you that some cow died just so you could eat bacon?”
What a little charmer. She’s been here for 18 hours now, and the only thing I’ve seen her put in her mouth is a salt-free pretzel and the skins from two dried cranberries. She looks as if she’s recently been exhumed. Just not as cheerful.
Her brother Bresson, now 15, won’t eat vegetables and is allergic to gluten, nuts, latex, penicillin, cats, bees and shellfish. He is, against all odds, overweight. And surly.
There is nothing their father, Bob, won’t eat. There is also nothing he will cook. It all has to be done for him. But he is not against making suggestions on the best way to prepare, say, his eggs.
”You only have white eggs? Not the brown ones? Oh, well, I guess they’ll have to do. No, no, not fried. Poached. Where’s your egg poacher? Really? You’re pulling my leg, right? You really don’t have an egg poacher? Well, I guess this is what they call ‘roughing it.’” He says all this while scrolling on his iPhone 7 and wearing a Fitbit. Similar to the ones they used on the wagon trains, no doubt.
This one can’t have salt, that one won’t touch lima beans. Did I mention that Beverly is allergic to green peppers? Neither did she, until after I made the tuna salad. Maybe, she suggests, it would be easiest if I just threw it all out and started over.
Why do we even let them in the house? Because Bob is an old, old friend. We knew him back before he met Beverly, and way before they spoiled their children. I was best man at their wedding. He seems to think his family is perfectly normal.
At breakfast, Cartier wanted to know if our coffee beans were picked by fair-wage workers. I could feel her gravity tugging at my atoms, trying to pull them apart.
”We used to buy that kind,” I said, “but then we found out they were buying baby-seal coats with all the money, so we switched to ‘Keep Them Poor’ brand.”
Cartier didn’t hear me. She had caught her reflection in a window and run upstairs crying.
”Oh, she’ll get over it,” said Beverly. ”She’s going through a phase. All kids have funny eating habits. I don’t know where they get these crazy ideas about food!”
While she’s talking, Sue pulls some bread out of the toaster and hands it to Beverly. She butters it and puts some of Sue’s strawberry rhubarb jam on top.
”This is delicious,” she says. ”Where did you get that jam? I have to buy some.”
”Buy some?” says Sue. ”I made it with fresh rhubarb last spring.”
Beverly gags as if she’s just flunked the challenge to eat kitty litter clumps on “Fear Factor.”
”You made this? Here? In this kitchen? No health inspector, no quality control, no hair nets? Last spring?! That can’t be sanitary. You know, if you two need money for food, Bob and I will be happy to give you some.”
Yeah, who knows where her kids get such funny ideas about food? Just then the phone rang. Sue picked up, listened for a second, and said, “No way.” Then she hung up.
”Who was that?”
”Bresson. He wanted to know if I could send breakfast up to his room.”
(Contact Jim Mullen at firstname.lastname@example.org.)