Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

Joe thomson



an Italian sauce served with pasta

            The sugo was made in their apartment that smelled like all apartments. A crawlspace of a kitchen and yellowing carpets that had absorbed grandpa's jaundiced complexion. When he died, she made the sugo and we all ate at a table too small to accommodate us. I had to sit on my father's lap and he insisted on feeding me, though he spoke at length and only occasionally forked pasta into my mouth. He wiped my face too hard with the napkin and told me, "That'll do," when I reached for the water-spotted fork.

            Grandpa's last dump remained in the toilet, preserved by grandma like submerged treasure in a porcelain chest. He was dead, but his greying feces were still around, prevaricating, there in the water, as he used to when asked if wrestling was fake. His shit was creating new discussions, affecting people's days as he no longer could. Eventually my mom flushed it and a brown ring remained on the bowl at the water line.

            At dinner, when grandma broke down and cried, she said it was for her brother Julian who drowned as a boy, but we all knew. We asked if we could leave the table and weren't allowed until we parroted, May we please be excused. She sobbed as the adults discussed The Rockford Files, I believe.

            "Jesus Christ all fucking mighty," I remember my dad screaming when we discovered grandpa's bi-racial porn. He drove behind a Wal-Mart and threw most of it in the OFF LIMITS dumpster.

            Pasta dinner was still on Sundays, though grandma's once delicious, deep red sauce was declining quickly. "You've done it again," my dad would still say with a condescension I didn't understand. Then we caught my mom spooning a panty-liner from the sauce pot into the noisy metal garbage can and we left before dinner, grandma shouting after us, "Where was I supposed to put it?"

            We stopped staying for sugo but grandma continued making it on Sundays. She'd started adding maple syrup and cracked eggs into the once incredible sauce. She forgot our names and I wondered aloud if she ever really knew them. We spied her stirring the pot in just her pantyhose as we were led, adult hand on shoulder, past the kitchen. We got McDonald's on the way home.

            Our family inherited the cauldron-like pot grandma used since coming to Canada when she went into the hospice. My dad had begun distilling his own gasoline and assured his tearful brother he "needed the real estate" when questioned.

            At some point the pot cracked at the handle and it was thrown into a garbage bag with some pop cans The Beer Store had brusquely refused. Later, my aunt, lips and teeth purpled by merlot, eyes alight with sunny melancholy, whispered in my ear, "She was only 47 pounds when she died," and it affected me deeply for the rest of that day.

Joe Thomson is a writer living in Toronto, Canada.