Richard Melendez is the Managing Editor for Abstract Magazine, and his writing credits also include INhonolulu Magazine, InsideOut Hawaii, Where Guestbook, and Pacific Business News. His short story “Inertia” will appear in the upcoming Bamboo Ridge #104. He is a Puerto Rican by blood, a Long Islander by birth, and has called Hawai‘i home for over 20 years.
THIS IS A GREAT BR FISHING AND WISHING 100 ENTRY
1156 words. Incorporating a couple of the December themes.
The old gang all knew about the divorce and the whys behind it. Some were bothered, some weren’t. No one said anything either way. They just nodded, smiled, made nice. And all were confused by the invitation. They’d just assumed that their ritual New Year’s Day brunch would fade away along with the marriage of the couple who threw the celebration each year to commemorate their anniversary.
“Delia, I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“Why not?” Delia straightened Oscar’s collar while they stood in the restaurant lobby.
“We not married no more, so why throw dis party still?”
“Because it’s tradition.” Oscar shook his head. “Why, what’s bothering you?”
“Just don’t feel like being here, that’s all.”
“Well, we’re here already. Everybody’s already at the table, can’t turn back now.”
“I don’t even like this place.”
“What? We been coming here for brunch for 40 years. Why you only tell me now you don’t like it?”
“I nevah like stir the pot.” Oscar peeked around the corner at the old gang gathered around their usual table, talking amongst themselves. No doubt wondering why the heck they were all there, he thought.
“Delia...” he whined.
“Come, let’s go.” She grabbed Oscar’s hand and dragged him out into the main dining room area. When their friends saw them walking in, they all stood up wearing huge smiles, arms outstretched.
Esther and Roland draped leis around their necks. Pikake for Delia, ti leaf for Oscar, just like on their wedding day. Esther used to make the leis every year till arthritis took over, and now her daughters or granddaughters have picked up her slack.
Tommy, already a bit tipsy from Bloody Mary’s, presented Oscar with the usual case of beer, complete with a huge ribbon and finger holes poked through the awkward wrapping job for easier carrying. His Dolores was on the other side of the table hugging Delia and gushing over her muumuu.
Robert gave Oscar a firm handshake and a one armed, half-torso hug. He didn’t say anything, but Robert was usually the quiet one, more so since Sonya left him two years earlier.
After filling their plates at the buffet, they returned to the table where where the men talked about football and golf while they drank like it was a dinner party; the women gossiped and talked fondly of their grand children, sipping their champagne. It was meant to be a celebration, after all. Traditions die hard. Nobody knew how else to pass this day other than the way they always have.
Somewhere between their second and third passes at the buffet line, Dolores said “Delia, Oscar, even though you’re not married anymore, I’m so happy you still did this.” It was directed to the once and former couple, but intentionally loud enough for all to hear. Oscar smiled uncomfortably, somewhat embarrassed that someone called attention to the ending of the marriage. Delia’s smile was a proud one, a quiet I told you so for Oscar.
“What else we gonna do? Things change, people come and go, but we still gotta do the brunch.”
“Yeah, me and Esther didn’t know what we were gonna do this year. We almost wen make plans with her family! Good ting you still have dis, I never like hang out with da in-laws.” Dolores slapped Tommy playfully on the forearm while everyone laughed.
Roland raised his glass. “Eh. A toast. For all of us. God bless.” Everybody raised their glasses and toasted to something big and heartwarming, even if they didn’t quite know what it was.
“Pssh. Why are we all pretending? Hah? Like everyting’s fine.” Robert stood up, noticeably drunk. He was so quiet the whole meal, nobody noticed he was downing his cocktails one after the other.
“Robert, sit down.” Tommy tugged on shirt, but Robert slapped his hand away.
“Fuck you, I ain’t gon’ sit down! Forty years he wen treat her like shit and we nevah say nothing. Not you, not you, not you, not you,” his accusing finger circling the table. “So what? Now when they finally get divorce, we still pretending?”
“We all know she deserved better. We all know she too good for him. But none of us nevah say nothing. And whenevah I open my mouth, someone tell me to sit down and shut up. Well fuck you, no more. Oscar. You fucka.” he said, this time his eyes gripping Oscar around the neck. “You one piece of shit.” Oscar didn’t say anything, caught in the spotlight of Robert’s rage. Robert turned towards Delia, his gaze softening. “Delia. You one buttahfly till he wen break your wings. We should of run away together when we had da chance. Now look at us.”
Tommy and Roland began to drag Robert away from the table. “I’m sorry, Delia. I love you,” he said as he was escorted outside. Everyone in the restaurant had long ago stopped what they were doing to watch the unfolding display. Dolores and Esther gathered around Delia, distraught but trying to play it off. Oscar looked down and said nothing. He and Delia held hands under the table.
“I told you we shouldn’t have done this,” he finally said on the drive home. Delia just looked out the window at the blurred landscape whizzing by.
“Robert was right. Why we gotta pretend like nothing changed? All different now. Can’t act like it’s not.”
“Robert was right about you being one piece of shit, too. That’s why you never say shit back to him.” Oscar digested that for awhile.
“So why you stay fo? Hah? Why you never wen run away with Robert when you guys wen fool around back in da day? Why you put up with my shit?”
“We never wen fool around. He try to, but I nevah give in to him. He living in one fantasy.”
“Fine. Whatever. So why you stay?”
“The same reason for forty years you nevah told me you hated that restaurant.”
“I nevah like stir da pot.”
Oscar pulled up in front of the house he and Delia owned most of their years together. It’s only been a few weeks since he moved out, but already he felt like a visitor. “I’ll come by tomorrow to take down the Christmas lights.”
“No bother. Junior gonna be by today, I’ll have him do it.” Delia opened the car door. “Thank you, Oscar. I know you nevah like go. And I’m sorry you had to put up with Robert’s bullshit.”
“Eh, s’okay. I had it coming.”
Delia grabbed Oscar’s face. “You one piece of shit but I still love you. You may not deserve it. But I do.” Delia got out of the car. “Same time next year?” she asked, as she closed the door.
Oscar just nodded, smiled, made nice, as he drove away, leaving a waving Delia behind. He didn’t know what else to do.