Meatballs and Peppers

Submitted into Contest #162 in response to: Start your story with someone looking at a restaurant menu.... view prompt


Contemporary Friendship Fiction

“What have you got to lose?” asked Louise as she perused the menu.

Wilma slumped back in her chair and stared at the concrete Jersey barrier that abutted their table. She preferred to eat indoors, but COVID had forced the restaurant’s owners to limit seating in the dining room and serve customers outside on a makeshift patio that now extended into the street.

“My dignity.”

Louise almost choked on her wine. “Your dignity!”

Wilma tapped her calloused fingers on the base of her glass. “I don’t wanna move. My home’s here.” She took a long sip of her wine, relishing the citrusy tartness of the chilled Sauvignon Blanc that their waiter had recommended.

“Didn’t your son just buy a big house on a golf course in Florida?”


“That sounds pretty nice to me.”

“It’s too hot down there.”

“I’m sure they have air conditioning.”

Wilma rolled her eyes. Her son, a vice president at Carrier Corporation, had recently relocated from Connecticut to the company’s new headquarters in West Palm Beach.

“I like it here.”

“In Hartford?”

“I live in Farmington.”

“In a house that’s too big for you now.”

“So why should I move into Jason’s big house in Florida?”

Louise peered over her menu. “Winter. It gets cold here and it snows a lot.”

Wilma shrugged. On this balmy July evening, it was easy to forget the gray slush piles and grimy snow mounds that buttressed the city’s sidewalks and buried its parking spaces every year from December to March.

“And when you got COVID, I was really worried about you. I’m sure your son was too. The whole Northeast was on lockdown and you were living by yourself.”

“Jason was working from home then and he’d stop by to check on me.”

Louise set her menu down and shook her head. 

“That’s not what you told me. You said he was busy with work, and Tina was happy to have him never leave the house.”

A waiter wearing an N95 mask approached their table. “Are you two ready to order?”

“We’ll start with the Italian meatballs,” Wilma replied.

The waiter nodded and jotted down the order. “Can I get you ladies anything else?”

Louise lifted her nearly empty wine glass. “We’ll be ready for another round when the food comes out.”

As soon as the waiter left the table, Louise leaned in toward Wilma. “They’re still in the newlywed stage. Give it time.”

Wilma snorted. “Tina’s eighteen years younger than Jason. And she’s a vegan. I swear that woman eats green peppers all day long.”

“Green peppers?”

“Yes, she’s decided they have some kind of nutritional healing power.”

“Like kale.”

“What the hell is kale?”

“It’s a green vegetable that’s all the rage right now.”

Wilma scoffed. “I’m seventy-five years old. I don’t need to be told to eat my vegetables.”

Louise sighed. “Does Tina golf?”

“Not very well.”

“Maybe you could give her some tips. Does she know how far you could drive the ball when you were on tour?”

“I don’t think she’s interested in her mother-in-law explaining how to hit a fade off the tee.”

“What else does she do besides golf?”

“Yoga. That’s where they met. She was a yoga instructor at Jason’s gym.”

“I guess they’re both into downward dog,” Louise quipped.

“Is that what it’s called now?” Wilma cocked an eyebrow and cast a saucy gaze at her old friend. They’d known each other for decades, ever since they had played together at the inaugural Dinah Shore Pro-Am Golf Tournament.

Back then, 23-year-old Wilma, a rising star on the LPGA tour, had been paired with Louise, the 20-year-old daughter of an executive vice president at Colgate Palmolive, the tournament’s company sponsor. Wilma dreaded the thought of playing with an amateur whose father had bought her a tee time at the tournament. Expecting a tedious day on the links, she was stunned when Louise smoked the ball 220 yards off the first tee. She later learned that Louise had finished third at the collegiate women’s national golf championship.

“Have you spoken with Jason recently? What’s he think?”

“That I’m getting too old to live in my own house. That I should come live with him and Tina.”

“Why don’t you?”

“Because the last time I was there, I had to put up with Tina and her little yappy dog. I swear she treats that animal like it’s her child. I mean she chops up vegetables and pours sauce over it and heats it up in the microwave like she’s feeding a person.”

Louise laughed. “Sounds like the dog’s got a pretty good life there.”

“Ya think?”

Wilma snatched a roll from the bread basket and broke it in two. As she slathered it with butter, her purse began to ring. She wiped her hands on a napkin then rifled through the leather satchel in her lap to retrieve her cell phone.

“It’s my orthopedist.”

As she listened to the automated voice confirming her upcoming appointment, she rubbed her left knee. All of those years on the LPGA circuit had taken their toll on her joints.

“How’s it been feeling since your surgery?’” Louise asked.

“It’s fine.” She turned in her chair, raised her left foot off the ground and made a slow kicking motion until her leg was parallel to the ground. Then she bent her knee and slid both legs back under the table.

“Are you going to have the other knee replaced?”

“Hell no.”

“Why not?”

“Because that’ll be another reason for Jason to want me to come live with them in Florida.”

“On a golf course.”

Wilma sighed. “Yeah, I know.”

The waiter reappeared and placed the plate of meatballs on the table. “I’ll be right back with your wine.”

Louise unwrapped her silverware from a white cloth napkin. Wilma sliced a meatball in half and swirled it in the tomato sauce before popping it in her mouth. She relished the spicy sweet taste that she’d tried to replicate with her own homemade meatballs, but they were never quite as tasty as the ones they served here.

“Have you been to their house?” Louise asked.

“Yes, last Thanksgiving.”

“How’d that go?”

“I nearly starved!”

“How does someone starve on Thanksgiving?”

“When the host is a vegan!”

Louise stifled a laugh. “OK, what does a vegan serve on Thanksgiving?”

Wilma dabbed the other half of her meatball in the tomato sauce. “Nothing I wanted to eat.”

September 05, 2022 16:51

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Graham Kinross
00:43 Feb 06, 2023

Your dialogue is really well done. I was smiling as I read the quips.


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Avery Crescent
22:45 Sep 16, 2022

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I got the idea from a photograph of a restaurant's dining area during COVID.


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Emily Grace
00:04 Sep 16, 2022

I really loved this!! Especially after the introduction where COVID was mentioned. That’s where it picked up for me. It was just that one sentence referring to makeshift patios that threw me off but, other than that, perfect!


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