The waitress places the plate in front of my mother. Nestled on ice, six large shiny gray raw oysters sit in their opened shells. My mother’s eyes light up. She has recalled something.
“Oh, I have a story for you. Did I tell you about Bertha?”
“Yes, you’ve told me about her.” I know she is a woman that my mom has become friends with in her retirement community. They play some type of card game in the afternoons.
My mother takes the lemon wedge and squirts it onto the oysters. She lifts her fork in her trembling hand and stabs at the first one.
“Well, Bertha had a son who died young, but we never knew how.”
She dips the oyster into the cocktail sauce. As her shaking hand rises to her mouth, tiny red specks splatter on the plate, the table, her shirt. She lifts her head and slides the oyster down her gullet.
“Mmmm….. These are really good oysters, the best I’ve had in a long time.”
“Good.” I fill my glass with iced tea from the carafe. I should have ordered an appetizer.
“Bertha told us about her son who died.” She forks her next oyster and uses her finger to keep it from sliding off the shell.
“He was a teenager and he was on a date with a girl and they ordered oysters. So the oysters came and the girl said her oysters didn’t smell right. She said they smelled funny. So he switched plates with her. He ate her oysters and he was dead in less than 24 hours.” Her eyes widen. Her plate of oysters is half empty. I can’t help but crack a smile. She lowers her head and stabs at the next oyster, smothers it in red sauce, and shakily lifts it to her mouth.
“These are so good,” she repeats herself. “Are you sure you don’t want one?”
“No,” I reply. “I think I’ll hold off.”
JIM BRESLIN’S writing has appeared in Schuylkill Valley Journal, Molotov Cocktail, Turk’s Head Review and other journals. His novel Shoplandia was inspired by his seventeen years as a television producer at the home shopping network QVC. He is the founder of West Chester Story Slam and lives in West Chester, PA. He can be found at JimBreslin.com.