“What’s this?” I scornfully pushed the brown gelatinous log around my plate.
“What’s what?” Mary looked at me with sincere confusion, eyes red rimmed with fatigue.
I pointed at the mutant morsel she had set before me. She rolled her eyes. “It’s an egg-roll, George. Eat it.” I frowned, not quite sure I believed her. I stabbed it. I swear a small, strained voice shouted, “Help me!”
“What’s wrong with it?” I asked her. “Nothing,” she retorted. I speared it again with my fork. Death spasms gripped it and the guts came spilling out of the limp, lifeless wrapper. White chicken meat for blood—it was a massacre on my dinner plate. “I think it’s dead.” She scoffed, “Perhaps it’s a bit soggy, but it tastes fine. Just eat it.” I flipped the crime against Chinese cuisine over and gaped in pure horror at the clear slime oozing over its rump. “Why isn’t it crispy?”
Annoyance stiffened the angle of Mary’s shoulders. “I microwaved it. I was tired. It’s been a long day and the twins had me up all night. I just wanted to fix something quick and easy that would at least be warm in your tummy. I’m sorry!” Her head tilted forward and I could see that she could barely keep her eyes open. The twins, huh? Yes, I could see those adorable little soul-suckers keeping her up. But there was still no excuse for the travesty she was deceitfully passing off as food. “I see,” I said, crestfallen. “You don’t love me anymore.”
Her head snapped up and sleepy disorientation pulled her eyebrows together. “Huh? What do you mean I don’t love you anymore?” I turned slightly away from her to hide my smirk and continued in a wounded voice. “It’s okay Mary, the last two years have been great. I knew having the twins would change things, couldn’t really expect you to love me forever. Don’t worry about it.”
She sat up straight in her chair, suddenly awake. “How can you say that?! The Orange Chicken and rice are okay, aren’t they? No complaints there, right?” I sniffed softly to myself, but loud enough that she could hear me. “Well…I didn’t want to say anything…” Her bloodshot Hawk eyes narrowed to slits. “What’s wrong with the Orange Chicken, George?” Her words ground against her teeth.
I shrugged. “It’s nothing…it’s…” I paused for effect. “Well, do you remember back when you used to love me?” I heard her outraged gasp of protest, but plunged on quickly. “You remember you used to make the Orange Chicken look so pretty? You’d put diced scallions over top, a lovely fringe of white rice edging the tasty, perfectly golden brown chicken. The orange sauce would gracefully cascade over the top—pretty as a picture.” I looked at the pile of slop all mixed together, no scallions in sight and sighed with sweet reverie. “And the egg-rolls! Oh the crispy, delectable egg-rolls! That’s when you loved me, Mary, that’s when. Do you remember?”
I met her stunned, slack-jawed expression. It was so hard not to laugh.
Her pathetic protest: “You can’t be serious! I was so tired…I made it exactly the same!”
I squeezed her hand to offer comfort. “It’s okay,” I said. I stabbed a soggy chunk of egg-roll and tried to pick it up, but it slid defiantly off of my fork, plopping on my plate in a gooey slush. “I’ll eat the egg-roll of decayed love. I won’t complain.” She jumped to her feet and spirited my plate away. The sad lonely, smashed egg-roll bit—that I’d finally speared successfully—hung from my fork in midair.
She said nothing, but the slamming of cupboard doors and pots spoke violently. I sneaked a peek into the kitchen. Even the stove seemed to complain as the tic, tic, tic gave way to the angry whoosh of flames. She poured oil into the skillet. I walked carefully into the room, tossed the diseased disfigured roll in the sink, and clapped my hands together like a little school girl. “I knew you still loved me!” Mary whirled on me, a frozen egg-roll clutched dangerously between the talons of her cooking tongs. “Babe,” she snapped, “dead man walking.” I grinned broadly and risked a quick kiss on her cheek. I practically skipped to the dinning room. Yup, I thought, nothing says love like a crispy egg-roll.