A Dish Best Served Warm

Nominated for a Pushcart Prize


Robert Kerbeck

Gargoyle, #66, December 2016

Joe had been standing in the Bellinghams’ barn during the July 4th pig roast, at least the place the couple referred to as “the barn.” With its designer fixtures and micro speakers that hung high in every corner blasting “Who Let the Dogs Out,” it bore no resemblance to any barn he’d ever seen. He’d ducked in to get some food, but mainly to avoid being responsible for the pig roasting in the Bellinghams’ outdoor fire pit. Apparently, it wasn’t enough that he’d furnished them with the free pig. They wanted him to cook it too. Joe figured it was the only reason he and Patty had been invited to the holiday get-together, though he’d never tell his wife that.

A half-dozen or so people were gathered around a long table filled with appetizers and American flags, including one woman hovering over his wife’s olive dish. He was used to folks having strong reactions to Patty’s cooking, but this woman appeared ready to make out with the dish—or had dropped her earring into it. A young man with a long ponytail stood next to her. He had his phone out and was taking pictures of it.

“Hey,” Joe said. “Can I get in there and grab some?”

“Oh, sure,” the woman said but didn’t move, just straightened, turning away from him slightly and brushing back her fluffy, platinum blond hair. He could tell he was supposed to look at her, maybe even stare. He wasn’t sure why exactly, though he had a good sense. Joe had long ago given up spending more than a split second attempting to understand the behavior of the entitled kooks living in his hometown. New people like this woman showed up every day, acting like they owned Malibu simply because they had a few bucks or some modicum of fame.

In his mind, assholes like this woman had virtually ruined the town that’d once been an oceanfront respite for blue-collar families like his. People were always shocked to find out that other than a small enclave of movie stars with homes on Colony Beach, Malibu had been an unpretentious, salt-of-the-ocean type place throughout his entire childhood. But over the years and especially with the advent of the Internet and Wi-Fi and LTE, businesspeople could now work from anywhere, so more and more C-level executives had moved to Malibu. He couldn’t take a goddamn walk on the beach without seeing (and hearing) some corporate type doing a business deal, ignoring the Pacific Ocean kissing their feet.

To read the rest of “A Dish Best Served Warm,” purchase a copy of Gargoyle.