Short Fiction: A Fight in the Restaurant

    “I like bread. I’m not apologising for that. And I’m not going to miss out on what makes me happy anymore just to please you.”

 “Why do you have to blow everything out of proportion? I never said—”

 “I know what you said, and I know what you meant.”

 It wasn’t the kind of conversation you want in a nice restaurant, but the little snowball had started rolling.

 “Okay then, what did I mean?”

 The fork clunked and rattled on her plate, and she leaned back and crossed her arms. “You always have to be right, don’t you?”

 “I don’t even know what the hell you’re talking about. You know what? Forget I said anything, okay? Just… Let’s just enjoy our food.”

 She leaned forward and picked up her fork, then hung her head and sniffed. He muttered a curse.

 “I’m fine,” she said, wiping a tear from her eye. “Eat your steak.”

 “Don’t be like that. I was only trying to—”

 “I don’t want to talk about it.”

 “You obviously do.”

 She was silent a minute. He waited.

 “Forget it,” she said. “…I should have listened to Jessica.”

“Well which is it? ‘Forget it,’ or are you going to talk about Jessica—who by the way has nothing to do with our relationship.”

 “She’s my friend.”

 “I know who she is.”

 “Don’t be upset just because you don’t like her.”

 “I never said I don’t like her. I like her fine. I just think she’s a moron.”

 She shook her head. “You don’t understand the way Jessica and I talk to each other because you’re emotionally stunted.”

 “Yeah, I bet that’s it. Thanks Dr Freud.”

 “Don’t be a jerk.”

 Other diners glanced at them.

 “Why are you even with me?” she asked.

 “Bloody hell. A two-hundred-dollar dinner, and I gotta deal with this. We’ll talk about it later.”

 “I want to talk about it now. And if you won’t… then I think that tells me all I need to know.”

 He sighed, set down his knife and fork and tossed his napkin onto the table. “Fine. All I said was, ‘Did you really need to order bread?’ That was it. Look, you were just saying yesterday that you wanted to cut down on carbs and lose a few pounds.”

 “And there it is. I knew it. You can’t stand to look at me now that I’ve gained weight.”

“Will you keep your voice down? That’s not why—”

 “Six years together, and now my arse had gotten too big, so you want out. Just have the guts to say it.”

 He glared at her, breathing heavily through his nostrils, then closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “All right,” he spoke calmly, “yes, you do have a big arse. I like it. Sure, I wouldn’t mind if you lost a few pounds, but that’s not why… that’s not why I hate bread.”

 She reached across the table and held his hand. “Then what is it? It’s been six years—you don’t eat bread, you won’t let me buy bread, every time we pass a bakery you get jittery, and since my brother took a job driving a bread truck you refuse to talk to him. At family gatherings you just stand on the other side of the room and give him the finger. What on earth is it? Why do you hate bread?”

 He exhaled then looked at her. “Bakers killed my entire family. My parents, my sisters, my cousins, even my best friend. Everybody I ever loved was murdered by bakers.”

 She stared at him, speechless.

 He clenched his fists on the table and lowered his head. “I just… I hate bread.”

 “I… I had no idea.” After a silent moment, she nodded. “Okay. No bread. I get it.”

 “No,” he said, raising his head to look at her. “Enough. Enough living in fear. Enough bitterness… Eat the bread.”

 She shook her head. “No, I couldn’t.”

 He smiled. “It’s okay.” He pushed the basket of buttered French stick slices across the table. “I mean it. What good is life if you can’t enjoy bread, right?”

 “But Bevan—”

 Bevan reached out and placed his fingertips over her lips. “It’s time, Madison” he said, and then lowered his hand.

 Madison took a piece of bread, held it for a moment, then took a big bite. Bevan smiled.

    Suddenly, a look of fear came over Madison, and Bevan heard heavy footsteps charging behind him. He turned around and saw a big fat man dressed head to toe in white racing toward him. The man had on a flour-dusted apron and wore his thick moustache waxed and curled up at the ends. His chubby right fist gripped a wooden rolling pin. Bevan jumped up and grabbed his chair, raising it just as the baker swung his rolling pin down. The blunt weapon clunked against the hard timber crosspiece between the chair legs and slipped from the baker’s grasp. The tall, puffy hat fell from his head. Bevan wrenched the chair back then thrust it up into the baker’s face, knocking him to the floor, then leapt upon him and squeezed his hands around his fat, sweaty neck. “Thought you could kill me, huh?” growled Bevan as his fingers dug in around the baker’s throat. “You bakers might have killed my family, but you’ll never kill me!”

 The baker, squirming and gurgling under Bevan’s death grip, forced a wicked smile. “I didn’t come here to kill you,” he hissed.

 Bevan’s face became pale, and his hands weakened and slipped from the baker’s neck. He stood up, leaving his attacker wheezing and cackling on the floor. Bevan turned and looked at his table, where Madison sat slumped over on her smoked salmon salad, choked to death on piece of French stick.

© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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