The Art of Hospitality

Submitted into Contest #100 in response to: Start or end your story with two characters sitting down for a meal.... view prompt

4 comments

Christian Fiction Inspirational

He had been taught that bread unshared is bread unblessed when someone else is hungry, whether man or beast, friend or stranger.


The Wedding

by

Dorothy West


She was an exemplary chef, a graduate of one of the finest cooking schools in France. In her spacious kitchen with its mosaic tiled floors and jewel toned backsplash, the delectable smell of duck a l' orange permeated the air. Green beans with almonds, crab salad, and chilled wine completed the menu. The oval shaped cherry oak table in the extensive dining room, covered with an ecru laced tablecloth, had been meticulously set. Silverware embossed with tiny golden grapes on the handles, laid gracefully on the sides of the fine china floral plates. Crystal goblets lined with golden rims, stood adjacent to the carefully folded lace napkins.


She surveyed the ornately decorated dining room like a general inspecting his artillery. Knowing that part of being the wife of a possible partner in one of the most prestigious law firms in the state, meant many dinners like this, would be a requirement. Before going to her bedroom to get dressed, she took a quick peek in the oven to make sure the cream cheese puffs weren't burning. After a quick shower, she slipped on her classic black dress, applied a red lip to her flawless makeup, and fastened her diamond watch that matched her earrings.


The couples invited to dinner tonight would be scrutinizing her every move. How she dressed, the home they lived in and the meal she served. The wives, like hornets with stingers, were notorious for making life miserable. One false move and you would be stung. Her nerves began to quiver and a glass of wine began to sound like an antidote, when the ringing of the doorbell startled her. Glancing at her watch, it was too early for the guests. They weren't arriving for another hour. Putting the lid back on the wine canister, she hurried to the door.


Standing in the frame, as she opened the door, was her uncle. Small in stature, wearing a rumpled dusty jacket, he gave her a weary smile. The lines on his tired face exposed hardship and sadness. It was a sadness she was too preoccupied to notice.


"Uncle," she stammered, trying to collect herself. "What are you doing in town?"


"I just wanted to visit my niece," he responded. His eyes searched her face for something. He didn't know what.


"Well, she hesitated, would you like to come in?" She wanted to tell him to just go away, but even she wasn't that rude.


"Don't mind if I do," he accepted. His gait was slow and he stumbled a bit which further irritated her.


As he was about to sit on the beautiful cream sofa, she dashed out of the room to the bathroom and returned with a white terry cloth towel.


"Here Uncle, why don't you sit on this," she offered, failing to hide her contempt.


The stench from days without a shower reached her nose causing the juices in her stomach to churn. Smiling politely with a hint of a grimace on her face, she made an attempt at small talk.


"How have you been?" she asked mechanically without masking her obvious irritation at his presence.


"I've been better, but it feels much better now being around family," he answered her, still looking intently at her face.


She looked at her watch and then around the room as impatience began to take over her entire mood.


"Uncle, I'm afraid that you've caught me at the most inopportune time. You see, we are expecting some guests.....before she could finish, he interrupted her.


"Oh, don't apologize, I know that you weren't expecting me. I'll be on my way. How is your sister?"


"I'll call you a cab and give you her address," she offered.


She quickly wrote down her sister's address, called a cab, and pretty much shoved her uncle out the door as soon as the cab had arrived. Closing the door behind her, she let out a huge sigh of relief as she marched into the kitchen to take out the cheese puffs.


*****************


He leaned back into the hard cushion of the cab and rubbed his swollen feet. He tried to take his mind off of his rumbling stomach. The numbing news from his last visit to the doctor’s office, made him more sensitive to his surroundings. Hanging his head out of the window, he took in everything that embodied life. The cherry blossoms peeping out from the trees, the joyful chirping of the blue jays and people enjoying life, brought out a wistful smile. The cab pulled up in front of an old shabby apartment complex. He gave the driver the fare that his niece had given him. Reaching inside his pants pockets and pulling out his last dollar bill, he gave him a small tip. As the driver drove off, he climbed the rickety steps, resting between flights, until he reached the third floor.


Knocking on the door, a high raspy voice on the other side asked for a name. He responded, "Its me, Uncle James.” Flinging open the door, a petite thin woman with streaks of gray hair framing her face, gave him a warm hug. His heart burned, as she held onto him tightly while covering his face with kisses.


"Uncle,“ the young woman blubbered, “it's so good to see you!"


She pulled him inside of her run down apartment. Her tobacco stained couch was missing a cushion, and the linoleum on the floor curved back like the worn pages of a book. The windows had wooden boards where there was once glass, and a hole in the wall exposed rotted beams.


"Please sit down," she insisted.


He searched her face, in the same way he'd searched her sister's face. The thing he was searching for was right there in her face. It was love. She observed his swollen feet, and hunted in her cabinet for a large bowl. Filling it with warm water, she went to her bathroom and returned with rubbing alcohol. Placing his feet gently into the warm bowl of water, she allowed them to soak before massaging them with coconut oil. Kneading his feet while cheerfully asking him questions, she noticed that his clothes were in dire need of washing. She gave him a worn but clean robe to wear, after drawing his bath water.


While he bathed, he could hear her humming to herself as she began to make dinner. Reaching for an old pot, she opened up a can of beans. She placed two of her remaining hotdogs inside the beans and turned on the stove. As the minutes crawled, the old stove took its sweet time warming up.


Feeling more refreshed after his bath, he came out of the bathroom wearing the borrowed robe. Sitting in a chair, and lost in deep thought, he smiled drowsily as she prepared the meal. He marveled at the striking resemblance to his sister; the same soulful eyes and the playful way the corners of her mouth turned up when smiling. Innate joy emanated from her, by just being herself. She turned around in time to meet his stare.


"So how have you really been?" she smiled while handing him a glass of tap water. She had taken note of the sadness etched on his worn face, and her heart ached.


"Well, it seems age is certainly catching up with me. I don't think I have a lot of time left in this life."


He spoke softly, almost a whisper, and then silently wept. His shoulders shook, as the flood of tears flowed quietly. She closed the refrigerator door and kneeled at his side taking him into her arms. She leaned close to his tear soaked face and kissed his moist cheeks.


"Don't you worry Uncle. You are more than welcomed to stay with me. I will take care of you. I love you very much.”


The beans and hotdogs began bubbling. Taking down two mismatched plates and setting them on the uneven card table, she gave her uncle the larger portion of the beans and hotdogs, and the last slice of bread. She offered him the sturdy chair, while she sat on two stacked wooden milk crates. They toasted to family with their two cans of grape soda, and began eating their delicious meal.


June 26, 2021 01:56

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4 comments

Deanna Salser
16:42 Jul 09, 2021

Oh, girl, that was incomplete. More was said that wasn't said, you know what I mean? So many feelings there I'm sure that was from a personal experience. I think you just need another pair of eyes looking at your stories before you post them. You need a writing partner. So do I.

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Angela Guthrie
19:23 Jul 14, 2021

😡

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Angela Guthrie
19:15 Jun 27, 2021

Thank you for reading it and for the compliment.😊

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Emily Bronte
16:10 Jun 27, 2021

This was a beautiful story!! Reminded me a lot of the Good Samaritan parable, except more modern and applicable to our daily lives :) It's hard to see how we sometimes do this without realizing it, and is good to have a reminder.

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