Family Meal

“What does ‘seconds’ even mean? I’ve never heard of that before.” Chuck inquires as he dumps a pot of peas into the strainer in the sink.

Leonard laughs. “Are you still hung up on that?” Leonard strikes a match to light one of the coal lamps on the wall. Leonard converted the reception area of the former garage into a family kitchen. “Well, in my day, seconds was for products that didn’t pass quality control.”

Emma smiles at her brother while she cracks some peanuts. “Daddy, you did ask what stood out to us today. Chuck’s just answering the question.” She turns on one of the eyes on the range and greases a pan.

Chuck tosses the peas in the strainer. “Yeah, Dad, I’m just answering the question. Being called a ‘second’ stood out to me. I don’t know the term. Are you telling me that they believe we can’t pass inspection?”

Leonard finishes lighting the lamps. He walks around the wood paneled counter between the dining and cooking areas. “I don’t know what they meant by calling us that either. That’s the only meaning I can come up with. They have a point though, don’t they? We certainly don’t look like any other family.”

“We certainly do not. I refuse to join one of these camps. They just seem kind of stuffy.” Emma adds as she dumps her peanuts in the greased pan.

“That group we helped today sure had a lot of opinions about how we’re goofy for what we are doing.” Chuck hands his sister the strainer of peas.

Emma thanks him for the peas and adds them to the pan. The grease crackles with the peanuts and peas. Leonard nods his head at Chuck. “They certainly weren’t even very subtle about those opinions, were they? Well, I don’t care. I’m really proud of the work y’all did today. Chuck, I think you overwhelmed Darrel. I’m still not sure he knows what to do with you. The way you handled that generator was brilliant.”

Chuck bows his head as he puts the strainer back in the sink and begins washing dishes. “Thanks, Dad. I had a good teacher. Let’s not forget Emma. You impressed that woman with cleaning up some of the debris around the rooms.”

Leonard nods at Emma. “Yeah, Emma, they have brand new rooms almost. I couldn’t believe it turned out that well.”

Emma nearly overturns the pan as she stirs the food. “Well, thanks, guys. I am glad someone suggested that I bring extra rags. I think they will really appreciate having a back stock. Chuck, I think Daddy is overlooking how he handled Avery. I think any conversation with Avery would have gone different if we were on our own.”

Chuck washes the dishes in the full sink and turns to point at his father. “That’s right, Dad. You did some good work too. You gave us the room to work. I appreciate you distracting Avery. I bet he could really have bogged me down fixing that generator.”

Leonard shrugs a bow. “Thanks, y’all. It’s amazing how the slightest connection can smooth conversation. How’s the food coming, Emma?”

“Oh, I just need some plates, and we are ready to eat.” Emma says as she pokes the concoction in the pan.

Both Leonard and Chuck move to grab some plates. Leonard pats Chuck on the shoulder. “Chuck, why don’t you finish up those last couple dishes?”

Chuck shrugs and dives back into the sink of dishes. “Sure thing.”

Leonard pulls three plates from a cabinet between Chuck and Emma. He sets the plates on the counter. “Here you go. Do you want more, or would you prefer bowls?”

Emma looks between the plates and the pan. “Bowls would be better for tonight.”

Leonard puts the dishes back and grabs three bowls before sliding the stack to Emma. She begins filling the bowls with the peas and peanuts. “Daddy, you really did well, too, on that garden. Something about not foraging for supplies seems like it eases the pressure on us.”

Leonard takes two full bowls to the square table on the other side of a counter. “Thanks, Emma. I know that working the garden is not a favorite task. I kind of like not having to search for supplies on a daily basis too. How are those dishes coming, Chuck?”

Chuck puts the last dish on a drying rack next to the sink. He crosses to the table. “Just finished myself. Looks like some good timing.”

Emma laughs as she joins them at the table. “It sure does. I guess we work pretty well together.”

Leonard nods before leading his family in a prayer, and they dive into the food. Conversation continues about the day’s work and the people they met. Leonard connects the events of the day to memories of him and his wife. Chuck and Emma laugh at these stories. They don’t remember anything of their mother. The children comment on the groups that they met today. They express a lack of understanding about how these groups remain together even in the face of such chaos.

Leonard pushes back from the table. “Emma, Chuck, excellent job on the food tonight. That was a nice meal. Who’s taking first watch tonight?”
Emma looks back at the dirty dish on the counter. “Well, I have some cleaning to do, so I will have to pass on that.”

Leonard shrugs. “And, Chuck took the last watch yesterday, so maybe he should take the first watch tonight?” Leonard stands and takes his empty bowl to the sink.

Chuck rises from the table and joins his dad at the sink. “I don’t mind the late watch. There’s little going on at that point.”

“Well, that’s okay. You take the first one tonight, Chuck. You can put Emma on the second one, and I’ll take the third one tonight. It seems like my turn anyway.”

Emma laughs as she adds her bowl to the sink. She puts a hand on Chuck’s shoulder. “Chuck, it sounds like Daddy has a plan. You know that there’s no disputing that. So, just go on and start your watch. I’ll take care of the remaining dishes and be in my room when it is my turn.”

Chuck sighs. “Yeah, you have a point, Emma. Fine, I’m off to see what’s happening.”

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