Spring 2008, Volume 32, Number 1
When Dale walked in Sue was passed out with plaster dust powdering her face, her left arm hanging off the couch, and her index finger stuck in an empty liter of vodka. The house had the distinct scent of sawdust and new paint, as loose trim boards lay like long blond crosses on the dining room floor. Several shades of green paint had dried on the wall just beside the window. Nine new bottles of top shelf vodka stood on the kitchen island like soldiers in a row, with a receipt for three hundred thirty dollars curled around the neck of one of the bottles. Dale’s stomach turned at the thought of another shot. Sue’s father had been dry for twenty years, and so maybe she had the right genes, but he couldn’t figure how she was able to take it.
He opened the cabinets, searching for something to soak up the alcohol. In college he used to think that bread would soak it up, if he could just get it into his stomach. He figured pasta would do the same and warmed a black pot for spaghetti. He pulled the coiled yellow receipt from the bottle and straightened it by rubbing it on the edge of the black counter. He remembered buying twice this much in Texas for one of their dinner parties, and even buying a stainless steel rolling cart for all the liquor and ice, so it could be out by the pool. It was a part of the job that he loved, entertaining all the oilmen and their wives, high heels and penny loafers clicking on the concrete as people mingled from table to table, not a care in the world when the money was good. Twenty couples were at that party, and there was liquor to spare. This was way too much booze.
The roiling water and fogged window above the sink signaled Dale to drop the spaghetti. He leaned his head into the hall to see if Sue was still passed out. He couldn’t see the mantel from this position, which had all their family pictures. He popped the jar of sauce and looked around, hoping all of upstate New York didn’t hear that he was making spaghetti from a jar. The whole family had once marched ten blocks in the snow, holding each other’s hands, to watch Syracuse play basketball on Kids Night against Seton Hall last year. Seton Hall’s best player was a lanky forward named Cappelletti. The heckler a few rows behind them kept yelling, “Your mama makes sauce from a can,” a joke not lost on the crowd, save the transplanted Texans a few rows down. Since then he had been conscious of the counterfeit Italian food he made in his own house.