“That dirty dog-rat bastard!”
The cleaver landed with a solid chop, slicing through the gills. Red, yellow,
and grey ooze squirted out. Veins and bones were completely severed. “Low down
My sister’s grip on the worn handle of the gleaming kitchen instrument was
unnaturally tight. Her light brown eyes were dark, with amber sparks of mounting
rage. She had a fierce, determined line to her lips that thinned what men would call
a voluptuous pair. We call her Margie but her name is Margene and she is the
oldest. Earvin Jackson, whom everyone refers to as just Jackson, had five daughters
and we were raised by him alone, since Mommy died in childbirth with daughter
number five. Of course, I was only three at the time, so Margie is and was the only
mother I’d ever known.
And Margie, approaching fifty fast, is the prettiest of us all. Well, to me at
least. My sister has what some black folks call ‘good hair’. It’s long and wavy in
thick dark ringlets, which when pulled straight, reached to the middle of her back.
Whether wet or blown-out, her hair always had a vibrant shine and soft bounce to
it. But she didn’t care for it much. Normally you’d catch her with it pulled up in a
messy mass of curls that kept falling forward into her face, or pushed behind a
headband, wild and free.
Yes, to me, Margie is the pretty one. And I love her dearly. Except when
she was a raving, cussing firecracker. Like now.
“You know,” Margie said, grabbing the tail of the newly-skinned 12-pound
seabass and flipping it on the cutting board. She tossed those curls that covered her
brow and leveled her eyes on me. “I should have Chuckie find him and kick his
ass! What-chu think?”
Chuckie. That’s her husband. He’s damn near more intimidating than my
sister. What she said wasn’t an idle threat. Chuckie could bring a man to a
Funny Valentine by Sienna Mynx
stuttering mess of apologies and excuses with just a look. Once, Lucille’s––our
family restaurant––was robbed by a teenaged hood, a junkie with red-rimmed bug
eyes. Scared the crap out of us. I was there, with Margie and my sister Alicia, until
Chuckie stumbled on the scene and disarmed the fool with a backhanded slap, and
grabbed the gun.
The meat cleaver came down again. A wet smack split the fish evenly down
the middle. “That’s what I oughta do, have Chuckie kick his ass,” Margie
“Calm down?” she snorted.
What else could I say? This was my fault. I’d messed this one up, big time.
Well maybe not entirely my fault. I told the lie to make them happy. So they
wouldn’t worry about me. Okay, let me explain. First, his name was John. Trust
me, I struggled with the plain name thing, but sometimes you gotta go simple, and
hell, I had to think on my feet.
John, for my sisters, is my imaginary boyfriend that they were all going to
finally meet at my little sister Sherry’s wedding. Margie in particular had been
looking forward to this fantasy event.
She turned on me in an apron stained with fish guts and unidentifiable
muck, hands reeking from the messy business of Today’s Chef Special. Her mouth
opened as if she wanted to say something, but fell shut, and those pretty features––
age touched only the corners of her eyes––were twisted into an angry mask. She
shook her head. She ran the flat blade cleanly under the shiny silver-black scaly
skin of the bass and separated the pink meaty flesh.
Tomorrow was the biggest day for the restaurant. Lovers from every
neighboring county would come to dine at the place named for our mother and run
by her husband and oldest daughter since her death. We’ve even been featured on
the Food Channel, which has business crazy now. Dinner reservations have us
busting at the seams. And still, Margie runs this kitchen, just like she runs our lives.
I love her, though.
Funny Valentine by Sienna Mynx
Oh, back to the little white lie: John. I came up with the idea right after
Sherry announced her shotgun wedding at Thanksgiving dinner. A girl had to think
fast or be subjected to ‘poor Tia’ for the rest of the holiday.
“I have something to say! Hey, everybody, listen to me! I have something to
say!” Sherry’s squeaky voice rises just above the clinking dinnerware, the joke
telling, the fussing children, and daddy groaning over the turkey looking dry as he
cut into it and doled out slices.
As soon as she begins, I know something is up. For starters, her boyfriend
and indentured servant—don’t ask, I’ll explain later––had been whispering and