Erin would rather be lying in a bed of needles than listen to her own daughter eat. The constant slurping and sucking noises as she mashed her teeth together and swallowed her breakfast at the kitchen table much too quickly were a daily symphony of staccato notes piercing her tired ears. Erin had always insisted that her daughter chew with her mouth closed, like a proper young lady, but years of her husband’s fat, smacking lips as he sucked down his meals and beer eventually bested her maternal influence, and she finally gave up. Her scolding wouldn’t matter anymore. Standing over the sink littered in greasy pans and bowls stained with grime, Erin sighed and starting running the faucet in hopes that the running water would flush out those infernal wet, scraping, mechanical noises.
Figuring she may as well do the dishes, Erin put her hand under the faucet and waited for the water to steadily warm. Getting hot, the water flushed over her extended hand and began to hurt as the burning sensation spread over her hand. Erin stood there and focused on the pain, her screaming nerve endings begging her to move her hand away. It felt good: clean, pure. Satisfied, she picked up the steel wool and replaced her hand with the first pan. Scrubbing made her feel at peace; the noise of the scalding water hitting the pan combined with her joyful humming broke the spell of her daughter’s miasma. Here, at the kitchen sink, Erin could escape the aural torture she faced every day from her husband and daughter as they ate their meals like greedy, wild dogs.
She shuddered, the calm disturbed.
“Erin, you in the kitchen?”
Erin stopped the water to return her husband’s calls. “Yes, dear. Did you just get home? I didn’t hear the door.” Erin turned around to face her husband, who had appeared at the kitchen table. She picked up a washcloth and dried her throbbing red hands. “Your breakfast is on the table.” She smiled at him and quickly looked away.
Erin heard her husband sit down beside his daughter, who chirped, “Morning, Pop! How was hunting?” before taking a sip of her water and returning to what was left of her breakfast.
Erin began running the faucet again, dreading the two-piece cacophony that would soon ensue.
“Honey, come sit with us,” her husband pleaded.
Erin stopped the water again and faced her family at the table. Her husband looked exhausted, and his sunken cheeks formed a weak smile when she met his gaze. Erin approached the table and hesitantly took her seat. She looked up at her daughter, her tiny mouth glistening with grease.
“I’m so hungry I can eat a horse!” her husband joked as he reached across the table to take a piece of the dark meat lying on a platter in the center of the table and placed it on his plate.
“What’s a horse, Daddy?”
“Hm?” Erin’s husband frowned for a second, “oh, never mind.” He procured a cleaver rusted with dried blood from his belt and began using it to split the cutlet open.
“Can we have one for lunch?”
“Not anymore, no.”
Erin began to feel ill.