Fiction. Table Conversation

Where did he go now then?” 

He looked across the dining table at his wife with a deep frown. She put a finger gently to her lips to signal silence and pointed downwards. He made a slight start, bent sideways as if to look under the table, but did not lift the cloth as his wife motioned wildly for him not to.

“Again!?” He pushed his chair closer back to the table, and resumed slicing the pork with increased intensity. “I tell you I’m becoming bloody well tired of this game.”

“Can we just please drop this and have a quiet meal for once!?”

Silence resumed in the dining room. Only the regular tick, tick of the grandfather clock could be heard, and the perpetual attempts of a wasp trying to get out, thumping incessantly against the window pane, together with the sound of forks and knives scraping against porcelain plates.

After a couple of minutes, a faint shuffle was heard from beneath the table; one of the chairs moved almost imperceptibly, and then all was still again. He leaned back in his chair, and gazed down while chewing his food with big, decided movements.

“Besides, under the table is where dogs are kept, not respectable boys.” At this a faint chuckle was heard, and the sound of heavy breaths like that of a panting terrier reached them from under the table. She felt a slight push at her knee and let down her hand to stroke the soft hair; a swift lick at the palm of her hand made her laugh, and a high, playful bark sounded.

He dropped the fork and knife down with a clatter, and pushed the plate away from him, looking at his wife, demanding a response. She kept her eyes fixed on her plate, finishing her dinner slowly; he refused to touch his food, staring at his wife while she ate.

She rose after a while, and stretched out her arm for his plate.

“You finished?”

“I am when he is,” he replied and nodded towards the other unfinished plate.

“As you wish,” she sighed, and went in to the kitchen and turned the tap on.

He remained seated with arms crossed. Once in a while he allowed himself a mouthful of water, but otherwise he sat still as a statue.

After fifteen minutes his lids became heavier and heavier. After twenty the tap was turned off, and he was dozing. After yet another ten minutes his wife returned, rubbing a plate with a chequered towel.

“What’s going on? Why are you being so damn stubborn? And where is he?”

Her husband roused himself at the sound of her voice. He looked around with a slightly confused look. She shook her head at him and stooped down and lifted the table cloth.

“Where is he?”

Her husband echoed her question. She let down the cloth and raised herself back up, meeting his eyes. “He’s gone.”