Sardines

“I used that spice mix that you gave me on the fish.” Mrs. Lepic said as she set the dish on the table and sat down right next to me. I was absolutely appalled. The hostess gift I had given was being used against me. As I looked into the Pyrex dish the fish were lying in, I noticed the poor little creatures still had all their fins and heads. A dribble of tomato sauce ran down the side of a fish’s face as if it were weeping at its desecration. As the shock wore off, I became filled with dread. I was going to have to eat one of those poor little fish. I glanced to my right and the sense of dread deepened when I noticed Titus’ mom was oriented in her chair next to me in a way that allowed her to watch my every move as she ate her meal. I began a panicked mantra in my head as I tried to figure a way out of the situation: “Crap. Oh, crap. What to do…oh, crap.”

Titus was going to have to save me; that was the only thing I could think of. But how on earth could I communicate my SOS to him across the table? My heart sank and he, oblivious to my hour of need—and to the fact that the meal was something out of the TV show “Fear Factor”—speared two fish on his fork and splatted them onto his plate. He ate them both and went for seconds. So I took a deep breath and lifted my fork above the fish. I paused looking for the smallest one, and poked my fork into its little body. I felt the fork meet resistance as the pressure-cooked bones gave way. My stomach gave a lurch. I then proceeded to ignore the fish on my plate for as long as possible. Mrs. Lepic commented about how I hadn’t tried my fish yet. Dread swarmed inside me as I scooted the fish towards me on the plate. I tried to get a bite of fish that would have the least amount of bones. Taking a deep breath, I tried to tell myself that this bite of fish would make me win fifty thousand dollars. I put the fork in my mouth. The texture was awful, the taste was horrendous, and my stomach tried to refuse the fish at the door. By this time I had broken out in a cold sweat. I was fighting to swallow the bite of fish and keep it down. My gag reflex won over for a few seconds and I choked. But after striving mightily, I managed to get the bite down. I didn’t look up. I knew she was still watching me.

“Well, at least you tried it.” Mrs. Lepic said in a dejected voice. I helped myself to more semi-crunchy potatoes. I could not win this battle. By this time, Titus was helping himself to thirds. In no time, he had cleaned his plate and was taking his dishes to the sink. He rinsed his plate off, and was walking to the back door. My mind flew into a panic. I was screaming inside. I decided to throw manners and decorum to the wind. Abruptly I stood up and rushed with my dead fish and potatoes to the sink. In as chipper of a voice as I could manage, “Well, I wasn’t very hungry tonight I guess. Thanks for the dinner though!” As soon as I got safely out the door, I sat down next to Titus on a lawn chair out of sight of the dining room windows. I pulled my feet up and sat in a compact ball.

“Why? Why did she have to microwave the sardines? Titus, tell me why there was even sardines on the table!” Titus looked at me with a sympathetic smile. “Lydi, that was nothing. Tonight’s supper was pretty good for her cooking.”

  • lydia lepic

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