Etiquette

Jared wasn’t hungry. Nonetheless, he asked for seconds and flashed a nervous grin that spanned his right cheek to his left. It was the kind of first impression you hope to God you never make.

“A glutton who feigns hunger,” Jared knew Mr. Humbruck was thinking, “What could you find to show me that is more repulsive, daughter?”

Mrs. Humbruck mimicked her young guest’s expression, though with a grin more like a frown. And as a fresh scoop of pasta primavera slid off the enormous spoon and into his gaping bowl, the ever-grinning Jared decreed, “Fine home cookin’- nothing better!” There was little could be done about that comment, so the Humbruck’s just sort of milled about on their plates, coaxing the particularly circular beef bits along the perimeter like crudely shaped tires spurred on by massive, gleaming tridents.

It was rather fun, so not even they noticed when their daughter, Janet, raised her napkin to her face and made as if she were about to barf “the Big One.”

“Stuff your mouth, dear Jared,” thought Janet, attempting to stifle the flow, “Stuff it with ‘thanks’ ’til all you can choke out is what you’re choking on! It is, dear Jared, the same, sad routine shared by the modest, the indebted, and the frauds.”

Now, the girl with her napkin was by no means making some sort of churlish slight to her mother’s lobotomized Italian cookbook dinner. All told, the primavera was really quite good. It’s just that Jared, her card-carrying boyfriend of sixteen months here, truly was making an oafish little pig of himself. He was sapping out crud like some manchild farm boy over his oat custard, lapping up seconds in some backwoods version of politics that only he was playing. So toothy and desperate was this man they called Jared!

So as her boyfriend simpered and slurped his way into her family, Janet Humbruck clenched her throat and swallowed. Then she began to smile as she daintily deposited some gastric juice and saucy crumbs into her napkin. Jared  noticed the change in her face and took it as a sign that all was going well, and that he should probably grin for a while longer.

The boy never guessed that Janet ‘s was a knowing smile. For at that moment, beknownst to everyone but he, the youngest Humbruck, little Carol, was hard at work at the basement whetting-stone, sharpening the very trident that would soon end a dull and clownish life.

There would be no thirds for Jared.

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