Close Encounters

“Van Gogh,” said Trista, poking at her food with a fork. “If you took the colors of the food on this plate and made a painting, it would definitely be Van Gogh. Yellow mango, red peppers, green beans, kinda earthy colored crust on the fish. It reminds me of that one with the chair in the middle of the room.”


Julianne sighed and pursed her lips. “Don’t start. You know the rules. You need to eat at least half of that. Agnes!” she said with a smile as she quickly got out of her chair and kissed an elderly woman who limped by. “Let me help you over to your seat.” She gently led the woman towards the buffet line and looked back at her daughter, silently mouthing the word “behave.”


“I’ll be fine, Mom. Thanks for getting me the fish,” said Trista as she waved her mother off. She picked up her knife and scraped the carbohydrate coating off the fish, shoving it into a little pile at the edge of the plate.  She expertly cut the meat into tiny uniform pieces and added most of it to the mound of breading. She speared a green bean and let the oil drain onto the mound. Now the food reminded her of that scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where the guy made volcanoes out of mashed potatoes or whatever. She tried to chew slowly, but the fast-paced polka music booming through the reception hall inadvertently caused her to speed up from her usual pace.


Trista glanced around the room and beckoned her cousin Connie, who wore the pearly pink of the bridesmaids. Trista bet herself she could clench her buttocks ten times before Connie made it to the table, but she managed only four.


“It’s so good to see you!” said Connie as she bear-hugged Trista. “You look great. Beautiful. Healthy. Here, I brought us each a piece of cake.”


“Oh, no, I am stuffed,” protested Trista as Connie offered her a giant white sugar monstrosity. Trista inhaled the rich smell of buttercream and lemon and backed up in order to get some air. “I mean, the dinner was so delicious, I totally gorged out. Didn’t you love it?”


“I always like the champagne and dessert best, you know that,” replied Connie. She stabbed a forkful of cake and held it in front of Trista’s face. “Open up. I need to report back to Aunt Julianne that you ate.”


“You’re embarrassing me,” hissed Trista as she grabbed her water glass and drank an estimated three ounces. The lemon wedge bobbing in the water was like a buoy in a lake, she thought. Thinking of lakes always calmed her. She took a deep breath and met Connie’s gaze. “Okay, I’ll have a bite. Just one.” She took the fork and moved her mouth forward to envelop the cake, pulling back with her head instead of pulling the fork forward. She felt immediately light-headed from the sugar but clenched her jaws together and swallowed forcefully. She couldn’t bring herself to chew because that would get the sugar all over her enamel, and between her teeth and gums, so she just kept swallowing until it was down. She drained her water glass and smiled at her cousin. “See? “ She felt triumphant but knew better than to show it.


“Could you have enjoyed that any less?” said Connie as she commandeered the rest of Trista’s cake and finished it in two messy bites. “Let’s go dance.”


The two teens jumped up and made their way to the edge of the dance floor. Married couples in their fifties and above twirled by until they got out of breath, while girls as young as eight year old paired up and just tried to keep moving with the crowd, regardless of the steps. The boy cousins were uninterested in any dance that didn’t involve cheerleaders from their schools, and mostly stood by the bar, downing beer after beer.


Connie and Trista grabbed each other’s hands and joined the action on the dance floor,  hopping and galloping to the band’s version of Frankie Yankovic’s “Too Fat Polka. “ As Trista spun around, she sang along with the lyrics, “I don’t want her, you can have her, she’s too fat for me, she’s too fat for me….”









2 responses to “Close Encounters

  1. Wow, all that’s missing is the yellow pudding bowl and I’d be right back in college…

  2. You have to be kidding! Polkas? And boy cousins who weren’t interested in dancing? You wouldn’t by any chance have relatives in Michigan, would you? And could you clarify whether that multi-colored food was touching?

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