Suburban Soliloquy #80


At the
Kitchen Table

Ms Keogh, my more significant other, resigned her position at Planned Parenthood due to the unacceptable level of stress that has been progressively worse over the past year. She blames the present Republican administration. They have cut funding to Planned Parenthood, which in turn makes it harder for the uninsured to receive assistance. But that isn't the subject of this essay. Meanwhile, Ms Keogh still has her part-time job teaching the gynecological examination to medical students and midlevel practitioners. She also makes a little money from the sale of her art. For the most part and for the near future, we shall have to make do primarily on my income. Not having money is onerous. But that isn't the subject of my essay, either.

Not being able to afford to go out, we have redirected our fun time together to the kitchen table. It is a good table. When my parents first moved from a larger, custom-made house in Broomall, which my father lost through his financial shenanigans, to this smaller Levittown house in 1961, which has since become mine, my parents didn't have a kitchen table. The one from Broomall was too big for this smaller kitchen. They searched and found one they liked, and then had a friend in the business order it for them at cost. It is a round, Formica-like table at which my parents ate thousands of meals on the smooth, fake-grain surface. Now this table serves Ms Keogh and me, but not for meals.

We derive a great deal of pleasure just sitting at the kitchen table and playing games while we discuss everything under the sun. We sit opposite each other and bring in the tall chair Ms Keogh uses at her drawing table to place between us. It is for Jazzbender the cat. From this high perch, Jazzbender can watch the game until it bores him, will usually end up curled into a croissant and asleep. Still, he always shows up, just wanting to be in our aura.

Ms Keogh and I play a fairly regular game of Scrabble. I have just lost for the third night in a row. It cost me thirty-nine cents, the difference between my score and her score. When we play draw poker, a nickel-and-dime game with a quarter ante, I usually win. When we play five hundred rummy, a penny a point, the game is fairly equal.

I used to be the better Scrabble player, but then I was foolish enough to teach her all my strategies. Ms Keogh used to endeavor to produce exotic words or to use the most letters. I showed her the value of knitting tight formations, placing a single letter to form words in two directions. I revealed how observing the eyes of your opponent you can tell the area they are studying and intend to use. If you can do nothing else, it is sometimes better to block. She has adopted my lessons and has furthered her skills, learning lots of obnoxious little words with peculiar spellings that astonish me when I challenge her, yet find them in the dictionary. Xu, xi, jo, vug, et cetera.

We also play the rare game of chess, the only game we play that doesn't involve money. Last year Ms Keogh borrowed my Staunton chess pieces to make the subject of a series of small paintings. She misplaced a rook. She made it up to me by buying an impressive new set of Staunton pieces by Drueke; the kings are four and three-eighths inches tall, one and seven-eighths inches wide at the base. They are beautifully grained wood pieces and are very heavily weighted. They are so large, they wouldn't fit on my chess board. For that reason we drew a larger chessboard on our kitchen table with permanent black markers.

So we play games at our kitchen table, but never eat there. All our meals are taken out. The theory is, eating out saves us time and labor. Now that there is less money to spend, we eat at the cheaper places. Sometimes it is just a matter of grabbing a sandwich and eating in the car. When we do eat at home, we eat sandwiches or fast foods that we've brought home, and we eat in the guestroom lounging on the Recamier while watching our only television, a nineteen inch Panasonic.

Despite the lack of family meals (there are only the two of us and a cat) the kitchen table still serves as a bonding experience. If not playing games, I might be writing letters while she is manufacturing tiny watercolors to adorn cards for correspondence. She regularly employs that table in some artistic endeavor or for assembling frames. There is usually debris to be shoved aside so that we can play cards. What does it matter if we can't afford to go out to the movies?

For reasons financial or medical, I might never see the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China, the Great Pyramids, the Great Barrier Reef, nor the Acropolis, Vatican City, and Machu Pichu. I might never ride in a gondola along the canals of Venice, sit at a café in Lisbon, or stroll the marble halls of the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. I doubt I will ever climb to the Potala Palace in Lhasa at this late stage of my life. What does it matter? I will never have enough time with her at the kitchen table.

Bruce Bentzman

This essay is number 80 in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"